Child Health Protection Act

An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (prohibition of food and beverage marketing directed at children)

Sponsor

Patricia Lattanzio  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

In committee (House), as of Sept. 28, 2022

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-252.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Food and Drugs Act to prohibit food and beverage marketing directed at persons under 13 years of age.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Sept. 28, 2022 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-252, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (prohibition of food and beverage marketing directed at children)

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

May 6th, 2022 / 1:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Patricia Lattanzio Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

moved that Bill C-252, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (prohibition of food and beverage marketing directed at children), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to take part in the discussion on Bill C-252, which aims to support restrictions on commercial marketing and advertising on certain foods and beverages to children.

Today's food environment is diverse and includes access to fast foods and ultraprocessed foods, which makes it difficult for Canadians to make healthy food choices. The issue has less to do with our individual will and more to do with what foods are available and aggressively marketed to us.

The advertising of these types of foods is all around us. As a result, Canadians are exposed to and consume too many foods that contribute to excess sugars, saturated fats and sodium in their diets. It is no wonder that Canadians continue to face challenges as they navigate through the food environment and strive to make healthy eating decisions.

There is no denying that we are facing a chronic disease crisis in Canada, and unhealthy diets are playing a key role. The scope of the crisis is staggering, and unhealthy diets with excess intakes of sugar, saturated fats and sodium are a key modifiable risk factor for obesity and chronic diseases. It has been reported that, for the first time in history, we have children who have spent their whole lives eating diets high in ultraprocessed foods and of low nutritional value. In fact, Canadians are the second-largest buyers of ultraprocessed foods and beverages in the world, second only to the Americans. Furthermore, studies have shown that one in three children in Canada is overweight or obese, and as a result is more likely to develop health problems such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, joint problems, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even some forms of cancer later in life.

In 2019, dietary risk factors contributed to an estimated 36,000 deaths, and the burden of chronic diseases impacted mainly by diet and other modifiable risk factors has been estimated to cost $13.8 billion in Canada. With these alarming rates and statistics, it is undeniable that the issue of our food environment requires our attention as a growing matter of public health concern.

While a number of contributing factors influence our diet, food advertising is one of the more prevalent. Advertising has a considerable impact on children's preferences and consumption patterns. A report presented in 2016 by the World Health Organization's Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity concluded that there is unequivocal evidence that the marketing of food and beverages that contribute to excess sugar, saturated fats and sodium in children's diets has a negative impact on childhood obesity and other diseases. It recommended that any attempt to tackle this serious health issue should include restrictions on the advertising and marketing of certain foods and beverages to children.

Even before the pandemic of COVID-19, it had been reported that over 90% of food and beverage product advertisements viewed by children online, and/or on TV have been for products that are high in sugars, saturated fats and sodium content. Kids aged nine through 13 years of age get more calories, almost 60%, from ultraprocessed foods than any other age group.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the urgency of tackling unhealthy eating habits as children who were confined in their homes through the lockdowns were subjected, through various media and settings, to unhealthy diets and food and beverage ads at an alarming rate. Statistics have shown that one-third of Canadians increased their consumption of junk food or sweets just three months into the pandemic as a way to deal with the stressful circumstances.

It is widely acknowledged that children are particularly vulnerable to advertising, and succumb to its persuasive influence over their food preferences, attitudes, purchase requests, consumption patterns and overall health. Children are highly exposed to food advertising through various forms of media, packaging or displays that promote foods that contribute disproportionately to excess consumption of sugar, saturated fats and sodium. The Canadian food and beverage industry spends approximately $1.1 billion per year on marketing to children. It uses product designs, cartoons, identifiable characters, fantasy and adventure themes to market to kids.

The exposure, frequency and power of the ads can successfully reach a child as young as three years of age. Given this evidence, it is clear that the government needs to do more and take immediate action to protect children from unfair and deceptive marketing and advertising practices in order to protect their health. That is why part of the Minister of Health's mandate is to promote healthy eating by advancing the healthy eating strategy.

Evidence has shown that many factors in our food environment influence our ability to make healthy food choices, such as access to and availability of healthy food options, lower prices and the promotion of certain foods. The food we find in our grocery stores, on restaurant menus, on social media and in food advertising greatly impacts our choices. With widespread availability of foods high in sugar, saturated fats and sodium, we need to take action in order to restrict ads from targeting children.

Our government recognized these challenges in 2016 and subsequently launched the healthy eating strategy in order to make the healthier choice the easier choice for Canadians. The strategy aims to improve nutrition information and literacy, facilitate healthier food options, and protect and support marginalized and vulnerable populations.

The Government of Canada has made significant progress to date. In 2016, the government improved the nutrition facts table and list of ingredients, which helped Canadians make more informed food choices; in 2018, it prohibited industrially produced trans fats; in 2019, the revised Canada's food guide was launched, providing Canadians with relevant, consistent and credible dietary guidance; and in 2020, sodium reduction targets were published to encourage sodium reduction in food supply. However, more remains to be done.

The government is committed to advancing the outstanding initiatives of the healthy eating strategy and pursuing the implementation of preventive measures aimed at promoting healthy eating lifestyles. These include finalizing the front of package nutrition labelling to promote healthy food choices, and supporting restrictions on the commercial marketing and advertising of certain foods and beverages to children. Having the right tools to access, understand and use nutrition information will support Canadians in making healthier choices.

However, other factors, particularly the constant stream of commercial messages and endorsements, also influence what we buy. These aggressive marketing techniques are used to promote foods with excess amounts of sugar, saturated fats and sodium. Children are particularly vulnerable to food advertising and, therefore, must be provided the necessary protection for their health and well-being; marketing directed at them must be regulated. Their parents should be provided with the support needed as they help their children develop healthy eating habits and food preferences.

Bill C-252 aims to protect children's health and well-being. Bill C-252 proposes to amend Canada's Food and Drugs Act in order to prohibit any marketing of food and beverages directed at persons under the age of 13. Clause 2 of Bill C-252 adds the definition of “children”, stipulating that it means persons who are under the age of 13.

As per the FDA, “food” includes beverages, and “advertisement” is defined in broad terms, including representation by any means of promoting directly or indirectly the sale of products controlled by legislation. The notion of advertisement is media neutral, which encompasses the latest technologies and evolving marketing methods. Clause 4 of Bill C-252 adds a new paragraph to the FDA, entitled “Advertising directed at children” and—

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

May 6th, 2022 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

The hon. member for Fort McMurray—Cold Lake is rising on a point of order.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

May 6th, 2022 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Laila Goodridge Conservative Fort McMurray—Cold Lake, AB

Madam Speaker, I was wondering if you could look at who is participating online. I believe that someone might be participating in a washroom, the member for Brampton Centre.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

May 6th, 2022 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

I cannot see. I do not have access. The Table does not see anything either.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

May 6th, 2022 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, we have to be very careful about the types of points of order. When people are in their offices, working virtually, sometimes it can be very easy to shy away from the camera to do something else, much like we might shift over a couple of seats. I believe the most important thing is that members have the camera on and are in the room. I would not want to embarrass members, no matter what political party they might belong to. I do not think it would be appropriate to use the virtual Parliament as a mechanism to embarrass people.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

May 6th, 2022 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

I have confirmation from the Table that a page has confirmed that there was a member who appeared to be in the washroom. I would like to remind everyone that, especially online, we have to be very prudent with how we use our devices and be aware of the surroundings.

The hon. member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

May 6th, 2022 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Patricia Lattanzio Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Madam Speaker, I shall proceed. As per the FDA, “food” includes beverages, and “advertisement” is defined in broad terms, including any representation by any means by promoting directly or indirectly the sale of products controlled by legislation.

The notion of advertisement is media neutral, which encompasses the latest technologies and evolving methods.

Clause 4 of Bill C-252 adds a new section to the FDA, entitled “Advertising directed at children”, whereby provisions and regulations will define the marketing and advertising mechanisms that would be prohibited and would be part of the bill.

Clause 7.3 allows, after five years of the adoption of Bill C-252, a review mechanism, possible by a committee of the Senate, of the House of Commons or of both Houses of Parliament, in order to evaluate if there has been an increase in advertising of foods and beverages that contribute to excess sugar, saturated fats or sodium in children's diets in the next group of kids, that is persons who are between 13 and 16 years of age.

Lastly, clause 6 of the bill stipulates that the act would come into force one year after receiving royal assent.

By supporting Bill C-252, we are ensuring that marketing and advertising cannot bypass parents and target children directly.

To conclude, we all have an opportunity to advocate through meaningful changes to our food environment. The government has taken important steps to create conditions to make the healthier choice the easier choice for all Canadians, but still, more work remains to be done.

We are committed to advancing the remaining key healthy eating strategy initiatives to further improve the state of healthy eating in Canada and have a meaningful impact on the long-term health of Canadians. This includes taking actions to support children's healthy eating habits to mitigate risks of obesity and diet-related chronic diseases. A healthy population, including healthy children, is not only key to reducing the likelihood of serious health problems, thus requiring fewer health care services, but would also contribute to a healthy economy as well.

Some parliamentarians may recall that a similar bill, Bill S-228, was initially tabled in the Senate in 2016, spearheading the approach to introducing restrictions on advertising and marketing to children. It had passed in the Senate, was debated and amended in this chamber, and was subsequently returned to the Senate, but never reached the final vote before the dissolution of Parliament in 2019.

In the meantime, industry stakeholders have taken initiatives to tackle the issue of advertising to children, but their attempts at self-regulation have been on a voluntary basis only and lack proper monitoring. As a result, Canadian children continue to be exposed to these ads.

It is worth noting that restricting marketing to children has become mandatory in countries such as Portugal, Mexico and Chile, and Argentina and Spain are in the process of advancing new legislative regulatory initiatives. More importantly, the U.K. tabled legislation imposing restrictions on advertising of HFSS products, those that are high in fat, salt and sugar, in July 2021. It received royal assent just last Thursday, April 28, and will come into effect in less than a year, on January 1, 2023.

Dear colleagues, Canada must follow suit. The issue on hand is non-partisan, and I hope to count on the support of all parliamentarians in this House, as well as all senators, for the adoption of Bill C-252, which will benefit our children and future generations. I would like to thank the researchers, especially Dr. Monique Potvin Kent, la Coalition Poids, the Quebec coalition, the Stop Marketing to Kids Coalition, the allied health agencies, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the Childhood Obesity Foundation, who have worked and supported the objectives of Bill C-252 and of its prior version.

I look forward to the final implementation of Bill C-252.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

May 6th, 2022 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Ziad Aboultaif Conservative Edmonton Manning, AB

Madam Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member on her bill. I believe that the spirit of the bill is great, and I hope that she will be able to take it all the way through to royal assent.

The challenge for the bill is digital advertisement. In a digitized world, where social media plays a big and fundamental role, how does the bill ensure that it would work properly and provide the conditions to meet its objectives?

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

May 6th, 2022 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Patricia Lattanzio Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his excellent question.

The bill encompasses all types of advertising, including digital advertising. I hope measures will be taken to tackle and stop big companies from being able to target our children via digital channels, whether it be through cell phones, computers or online media.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

May 6th, 2022 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel for her speech and her bill.

Problems with bills often arise in their application rather than their intent. Given the amount of advertising these days, I wonder if the member could explain how there would be follow up. In the past, Quebec's consumer protection bureau was inundated with complaints, and there were only enough resources to deal with the most visible cases and have them taken off the airwaves, in certain cases.

I was wondering what kind of resources we can hope for from the bill.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

May 6th, 2022 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Patricia Lattanzio Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for her very relevant question.

This bill was indeed inspired by Quebec's Consumer Protection Act, which I think has been very successful. In the past, we saw this kind of advertising at amusement parks, like La Ronde, and at water parks. We need to have a system in place to determine what kinds of advertising break the law, so that we can manage and regulate them.

With regard to resources, this was done in Quebec, and we already have the evidence. Notices are sent out immediately. Then, if the advertising agencies do not take prompt action, they are taken to court. We know that rather hefty fines have been imposed in the past.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

May 6th, 2022 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Bonita Zarrillo NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, I really thank the member for her speech today and for the comments that were made around the health of children and the impact of advertising.

Can the member comment on how gaming, which strategically places product within games, in the hands of characters, can be included in the bill?

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

May 6th, 2022 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Patricia Lattanzio Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Madam Speaker, in essence, the bill looks to restrict all types of advertising, including characters or anything that would appeal to children to persuade them to pester their parents, if I can express myself that way, to buy these products. Using mascots, logos or fantasy characters would all be restricted.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

May 6th, 2022 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Ryan Turnbull Liberal Whitby, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for her incredibly hard work on this very important private member's bill, which I could not be more supportive of. I think many Canadians will be thanking her, hopefully for generations, because of her contributions to children's health.

What is interesting to me is to think about the cost avoidance of dietary-related disease, which we know is one of the largest costs to Canada's health care system. I wonder if the member could explain what she thinks the cost avoidance might be for Health Canada in the future.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

May 6th, 2022 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Patricia Lattanzio Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his excellent question.

As I mentioned in my speech, it has been estimated that it is costing Canadians $13.8 billion annually to deal with diseases that are compounded and related to unhealthy eating habits. I think that in the long run, investing and putting forward these types of restrictions would contribute to reducing the health care that Canadians need and reducing the costs associated to—