‘The kids are not alright’
Heart & Stroke sounds alarm over food and drink marketing to youths
The Heart & Stroke Foundation says it has lost its appetite for advertising after putting together a report called “The kids are not alright: How the food and beverage industry is marketing our children and youth to death.”
The report, released today, doesn’t sugar-coat the findings of Dr. Monique Potvin Kent, a food and beverage marketing and children’s nutrition expert, and Elise Pauzé, who were commissioned by the Heart & Stroke Foundation to research the subject.
They reviewed the Top 10 most popular websites for children (ages two-11) and youths (ages 12-17) over the period of a year (June 2015 to May 2016) to determine how much food and beverage advertising — and what kind — young people are exposed to.
As it turned out, children viewed more than 25 million food and beverage ads that year on their favourite websites; more than 90 per cent of the ads viewed by children and youths were for products the researchers deem unhealthy and high in fat, sodium or sugar. (A nutritional analysis of the foods and beverages was done using the Pan-American Health Organization Nutrient Model.)
“I could not get over the numbers. There are many ads on TV directed at kids and it’s even higher for teens, but there are only so many spots available. There is a limit. On the Internet there are absolutely no limits,” Potvin Kent said in the report.
The most advertised products for children were Kellogg’s Pop Tarts, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, McDonald’s Happy Meals, Red Bull and Kraft Lunchables.
For teens, Pop Tarts, Frosted Flakes and Red Bull also made the list, along with Kellogg’s Froot Loops and Tim Hortons Roll Up the Rim to Win.
Catherine Mah, assistant professor of health policy and interim program director of population/public health at Memorial University, got to read through the report before it was released.
“It’s coming forward at a really important time, because the federal government has already said that it’s making restricting marketing of food and beverage to kids a policy priority. I think this report is offering additional evidence and more momentum towards that,” Mah told TC Media.
Quebec has had legislation in place restricting food and beverage marketing toward children and youth for 30 years. In the rest of the country, the industry has regulated itself according to the Canadian Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative.
According to the Heart & Stroke Foundation report, the legislation in Quebec is linked with a 13 per cent reduction in people’s likelihood of buying fast food. That province has the lowest obesity rate among children aged six to 11 in Canada, and the highest fruit and vegetable consumption.
Mah said Newfoundland and Labrador has greater proportions of risk factors for cardiovascular disease and obesity.
“But I think the important message is really that food and beverage marketing is really a national issue. It doesn’t just affect children in Quebec. It doesn’t just affect children in Newfoundland and Labrador. It affects children all across Canada and globally,” she said.
Mah encourages parents to have a look at the report and get an idea of how advertising could be affecting their children’s health.
“I think most parents are concerned, but I think they would still be surprised by looking at some of the numbers, like the 25 million ads,” she said.
“I think that parents should also get active, and get angry, about this exposure, and contact their MHA and MP.”
The full report can be viewed online at www.heartandstroke.ca/heartreport. All meals are served with your choice of Potato. For Catcus Chips, Sweet Potato Fries or Taters, add .99¢