Bill to re­strict junk food ads worth the heat: MP

Winnipeg Free Press - - NEWS - DY­LAN ROBERTSON dy­lan.robertson@freep­ress.mb.ca

TTAWA — A Win­nipeg MP ex­pects to be crit­i­cized for get­ting be­hind a pro­posed ban on the ad­ver­tis­ing of un­healthy snacks and drinks to chil­dren.

“I ex­pect a lot of op­po­si­tion, but our di­a­betes and obe­sity rates are sky­rock­et­ing,” said Win­nipeg Lib­eral MP Doug Ey­olf­son, who is shep­herd­ing a Con­ser­va­tive se­na­tor’s bill through the House of Com­mons.

The multi-par­ti­san sup­port sug­gests the bill has a chance at be­com­ing law, but the com­pa­nies be­ing chewed out by the bill say it’s based on junk science.

Bill S-228 would pro­hibit mar­ket­ing, ad­ver­tis­ing and pack­ag­ing of un­healthy

Ofood and bev­er­ages di­rected at chil­dren un­der the age of 17. B.C. Sen. Nancy Greene Raine tabled the bill last Novem­ber. It cleared the Se­nate this month. Ey­olf­son stepped up to be­come the bill’s House of Com­mons spon­sor, with­out which MPs couldn’t study or vote on the bill. The for­mer emer­gency room doc­tor said it’s a mat­ter of pro­tect­ing chil­dren, who are vul­ner­a­ble to ad­ver­tis­ing mes­sages.

Greene Raine agreed, point­ing to stud­ies that say the num­ber of obese chil­dren in Canada has tripled since 1980. She said chil­dren are tar­geted by video game ads and sports spon­sor­ships that shape con­sump­tion habits for life.

“They’re be­ing, in a sense, brain­washed,” she said.

Un­healthy chil­dren will fur­ther strain pro­vin­cial health ser­vices, she said.

In­dus­try groups have pushed back, with the lob­by­ist registry show­ing ad­ver­tis­ing, food and bev­er­age pro­duc­ers and even a broad­caster meet­ing with se­na­tors. Con­versely, the Cana­dian Cancer So­ci­ety and a sub­set of the Heart and Stroke Foun­da­tion have lob­bied in sup­port of the bill.

Ad­ver­tis­ing Stan­dards Canada launched a vol­un­tary pro­gram in 2007, crafted with Health Canada’s help, which re­stricts food ad­ver­tis­ing to kids un­der the age of 12.

Ey­olf­son said he reg­u­larly sees un­healthy foods us­ing car­toon char­ac­ters and TV com­mer­cials aimed at chil­dren.

“It isn’t enough. I’ve seen lots of com­pa­nies that aren’t com­ply­ing… with the spirit of it,” he said.

Greene Raine claimed some com­pa­nies would wel­come a ban — to crack down on the com­pa­nies that don’t fol­low vol­un­tary guide­lines.

“They said they would wel­come a level play­ing field,” she said.

But the As­so­ci­a­tion of Cana­dian Ad­ver­tis­ers has pushed back, ar­gu­ing there’s lit­tle ev­i­dence such a ban would cut obe­sity rates, and ob­ject­ing to po­ten­tially in­clud­ing sugar-sweet­ened yo­gurt and fruit juice.

Avail­able re­search can lead to mixed con­clu­sions on the ef­fect of re­strict­ing ad­ver­tis­ing.

Que­bec banned the ad­ver­tis­ing of un­healthy food to chil­dren un­der 13 back in 1980. A 2012 Univer­sity of Bri­tish Columbia study sug­gests Que­bec has a lower child­hood obe­sity rate. The Se­nate bill orig­i­nally pro­posed a cut-off age of 13, but se­na­tors raised it to 17 in the sum­mer.

But in a Univer­sity of Man­i­toba study pub­lished last year, re­searchers found a de­cline in child­hood obe­sity be­tween 2004 and 2013 from 30.7 per cent to 27 per cent.

Ey­olf­son said there’s even more work to do, such as tar­get­ing claims from mak­ers of so-called su­per-foods. He was stunned to see a pack­age of quinoa that claimed it would pre­vent cancer.

BORIS MINKEVICH/ WIN­NIPEG FREE PRESS

An SUV in­volved in a col­li­sion on Hen­der­son High­way at McLeod Av­enue on Satur­day is re­moved on Sun­day. It was one of two se­ri­ous col­li­sions that night.

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