On Oct. 24, 2016, Minister of Health Jane Philpott announced that Health Canada will be implementing restrictions on advertising and marketing aimed at children. In its backgrounder document “Healthy Eating Strategy,” Health Canada notes that it will hold consultations with the public and with stakeholders prior to implementing new restrictions. Health Canada also announced that it will hold expert round tables this fall regarding marketing restrictions aimed at children.

This announcement comes on the heels of Bill S-228, “An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (prohibiting food and beverage marketing directed at children)”, which was tabled in the Senate in September 2016. Health Canada is currently reviewing that bill in light of its announced commitment to restrict marketing to children.

The proposed advertising restrictions are intended to address the rising rates of obesity in Canadian children. The current version of Bill S-228 includes restrictions on advertising, labelling and packaging of food products in a manner directed towards children.

Similar legislation is already in place in the Province of Quebec, which restricts commercial advertising directed at children under 13 years of age. While the legislation in Quebec prohibits only advertisements directed at children, Bill S-228 proposes to go further and includes labelling and packaging.

Some of the notable amendments proposed by Bill S-228 include:

  • No person shall advertise any food in a manner that is directed primarily at children.
  • No person shall label or package any food in a manner that is directed primarily at children.
  • No person shall, directly or indirectly, promote a food by means of a testimonial or an endorsement in a manner that is directed primarily at children.
  • The depiction of a person, character or animal, whether real or fictional, is considered to be a testimonial or an endorsement.
  • No person shall offer or provide, in exchange for the purchase of a food, any direct or indirect consideration that is intended primarily for children.

Although it is too early to know exactly what form new restrictions will take, it is now clear that some restrictions to marketing directed toward children will almost certainly be implemented.

This article was written with assistant from student-at-law William Bjornsson.