Unhealthy Food and Beverage Marketing to Children: Possible Implications for Sport

June 16, 2017

Sport Canada - On June 10, 2017, Health Canada launched a public consultation on restricting the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children. The proposed approach aims to protect children from marketing tactics that encourage them to eat unhealthy foods. 

This is an important issue that could potentially impact the sport sector, therefore, I strongly encourage all sport stakeholders to participate in this consultation.

Background

The Government of Canada is moving forward on a number of initiatives that will help give kids the best start for a long and healthy life, and also help prevent nutrition-related chronic disease and obesity.

In 2016, the Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Health, launched the Healthy Eating Strategy for Canada. One of the intended outcomes of the Healthy Eating Strategy is to help make the healthier food choice the easier choice. In order to help achieve this, Health Canada is currently working on a number of initiatives including:

·        new restrictions on marketing to children to support families in making healthier food choices; and,

·        a revision of Canada’s Food Guide to better address the changing food environment and to support Canadians in making healthier food choices.  

According to the Senate Report on Obesity in Canada, the economic burden of direct health care costs and indirect costs due to lost productivity associated with obesity is estimated to be between $4.6 billion and $7.1 billion in Canada annually. If the costs associated with chronic disease were included, this economic burden would be much higher.

One factor that influences childhood obesity is marketing. Children, particularly at a younger age, are easily influenced by advertising, and evidence shows that the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to kids is associated with an increased risk of childhood obesity.

Today’s marketers leverage an intricate understanding of how product placement and strategic, targeted advertising, in community venues and online, can effectively influence purchasing and consumption decisions. They understand how celebrity endorsements (e.g. high-performance athletes) drive brand loyalty – which further influences children’s food preferences and choices – thereby driving increased consumption of unhealthy food and beverages.

Marketers are also adept at targeting children and youth in multiple settings. Health Canada defines child-directed settings as “…public facilities, events, or activities in which children are the primary audience or where significant numbers of children are likely to be exposed to marketing. Some obvious examples include schools, daycares, recreation centers, and organized children’s sports”.  Presumably, this would include corporate sponsorship of sport teams and events. 

Get involved!

The participation of Canada’s sport sector is essential to this consultation process, and your contributions to this dialogue are welcome. Health Canada wants to hear from the sport sector. They are cognizant of possible impacts that potential new restrictions on marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children may have on Canada’s sport landscape. The deadline for feedback is July 25, 2017.  Should you have any questions about the consultation, please email Health Canada at nutrition@hc-sc-gc.ca with the subject line: Marketing to Children.

Sport Canada will continue to monitor the ongoing development of the Healthy Eating Strategy and the extent to which any changes may impact marketing and sponsorship related to sport including events, teams and individual athletes. For more information or should you wish to discuss further, please contact Karyn Wichers, Manager, Insight Unit, Sport Canada at karyn.wichers@canada.ca.

Sincerely,

Dan Smith

Director General, Sport Canada