Advertising to Children - Canada Should Follow Quebec's Example in Terms of Legislation


    MONTREAL, July 15 /CNW Telbec/ - In light of the report released on the
Canadian Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, the Quebec
Coalition on Weight-Related Problems (Weight Coalition) is encouraging Canada
to develop legislation that is similar to Quebec's, to govern this type of
advertising. According to the Coaliton, Canadian companies do not deserve the
congratulations they are nevertheless receiving from Advertising Standards
Canada (ASC), following the self-regulation measures that were implemented in
2007 and are being evaluated today.
    In April 2007, 18 leading Canadian companies of the food and beverage
industry "announced their collaborative commitment to use their creativity and
marketing activities to promote and support healthy dietary choices and
healthy lifestyles to children under 12 years of age."(1). This is how the
Canadian Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative was created, and
it is through this initiative that participating companies self-regulate their
practices.
    "The first Compliance Report of this initiative was released yesterday by
the ASC, whom congratulated the companies for almost fully meeting the
standards they had set for themselves; standards which are very elastic",
commented Suzie Pellerin, Director of Coalition Poids. For François
Décary-Gilardeau, agri-food analyst at Option consommateurs, the Compliance
Report is very poor: "The criteria established by the various companies are
extremely diversified, not very structured and difficult to compare".
    "The report's conclusions show well how the self-regulation is not an
efficient measure to limit children's exposure to the advertising of the
products poor in nutritional value that are offered by the food industry. As
part of this initiative, advertising to children remains allowed!", adds Ms.
Pellerin. Indeed, this initiative controls, but does not prohibit advertising
aimed at children, contrary to the Quebec Consumer Protection Act. "The
growing obesity issue among children may be explained, among other things, by
the number of hours spent in front of the TV and the food product advertising
they are exposed to. The most efficient way to limit children's exposure to
poorly nutritious foods is with an Act such as the Consumer Protection Act",
Ms. Pellerin continues.
    Susan Linn, Ed.D., Director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free
Childhood at Judge Baker Children's Center and Instructor in Psychiatry,
Harvard Medical School, highlights another weakness of this self-regulation
program. "Every company participating in the Children's Advertising Initiative
chose its own nutrition standards and has created its own definition of what
is considered to be advertising directed primarily to children under 12 years
of age. But what we really need is a single set of standards across the border
and bodies in the U.S. and Canada to enforce it".

    Companies that are not as exemplary as they claim to be

    Legal proceedings brought by the Office de la protection du consommateur,
related to the prohibition of creating advertising for children in Quebec,
allowed pleas of guilty recorded by four companies at the beginning of the
year and another cause of action is awaiting a trial date. Three of the
companies these proceedings are targeting are part of this Self-Regulation
Initiative: Burger King Restaurants of Canada, McDonald's Restaurants of
Canada and the General Mills Canada Corporation.

    About the Quebec Coalition on Weight-Related Problems

    Created in 2006 and sponsored by the Association pour la santé publique
du Québec since 2008, the Quebec Coalition on Weight-Related Problems is
working toward the adoption of specific public policies with regard to weight
related issues. It acts within three strategic areas (agri-food industry,
sociocultural and built environment) to foster the development of environments
that help in making healthy choices and preventing weight related issues. Fore
more details: www.cqpp.qc.ca.-----------------
    (1) Canadian Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative:
        http://www.normespub.com/en/childrensinitiative/default.htm
For further information: Suzie Pellerin, Coalition Director, Cell.:
(514) 235-3766; François Décary-Gilardeau, Agri-Food Analyst at Option
consommateur, (514) 598-7288 ext. 227; Susan Linn, Ed.D., Director of the
Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood at Judge Baker Children's Center and
professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, (617) 278-4282,
slinn@jbcc.harvard.edu; Source: Amélie Desrosiers, Communications Officer,
Quebec Coalition on Weight-Related Problems, (514) 598-8058, ext. 233, Cell.:
(514) 475-7431, adesrosiers@cqpp.qc.ca