‘The kids are not al­right’

Heart & Stroke sounds alarm over food and drink mar­ket­ing to youths

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - News - BY LOUIS POWER Louis.power@tc.tc

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¢

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