Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to address the House today regarding an important piece of legislation to prohibit the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children. Bill S-228, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (prohibiting food and beverage marketing directed at children), has come to the House so that we can do our part to protect the health and well-being of Canadian children. It is through initiatives such as Bill S-228, introduced by the hon. Senator Greene Raine, that we will have a lasting impact on the health of Canadians.
I want to thank my friend and colleague on the health committee, the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, for his efforts in shepherding this bill through the House of Commons.
Diet-related chronic diseases are a national health crisis. For example, some three million Canadians, one in 10 adults, are currently living with diabetes, and about 90% of adult Canadian diabetics have type 2 diabetes.
To make matters worse, Canada's obesity rates are on the rise. Almost two-thirds of Canadian adults, 64.2%, are overweight or obese.
We have already heard from a number of our colleagues that the rate of obesity in children has tripled in Canada since 1980. This means that our children are at higher risk of developing a range of health problems later in life, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. With all this in mind, I would like to applaud the Minister of Health for her strong leadership in bending the curve. Specifically, the Minister of Health has launched the comprehensive healthy eating strategy, which targets the diets of all Canadians, including children. The key focus is to make the healthy choice the easy choice. Significant progress has been made on the healthy eating strategy since it was launched in October 2016. For example, Health Canada has advanced new nutrition labelling requirements that will increase the clarity of nutrition information on food packaging by 2022. Health Canada has also published new regulations that will eliminate industrial trans fat by 2018.
Moving forward, Health Canada is advancing initiatives to continue this momentum to support better health outcomes for Canadians. This includes reducing sodium in processed foods, revising Canada's food guide to reflect the latest scientific evidence, and introducing front-of-package labelling regulations to improve the ability of Canadians to identify foods high in sugar, salt, and saturated fat.
Restricting the commercial marketing of unhealthy foods to children is an important and timely component of the overall strategy. Now more than ever, our children are being exposed to a significant number and range of advertisements for unhealthy foods and beverages.
The marketing world has changed. In addition to traditional advertising, unhealthy food and beverage advertising is now all over the screens our children are exposed to.
According to a recent study, children see over 25 million food and beverage ads on their favourite websites every year. Technology has made it easier for advertisers to reach children now, no matter where they are. These factors combined are producing poor health outcomes and will have a negative impact on our children and our country in the long term.
In fact, the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children has been identified by the World Health Organization, WHO, as a major contributor to childhood obesity. To encourage countries around the world to tackle the problem, the WHO has developed guidance for implementing marketing restrictions, which Health Canada has followed in developing its policy.
Other countries are recognizing the need to take action in this area as well. Regulatory measures have been put in place in countries all around the world, including South Korea, the United Kingdom, and Chile. Health Canada is learning from their experience, as we are also learning here at home from Quebec, where regulations restricting marketing to children have been in place for over 30 years. The evidence suggests that this approach is working, as French-speaking children in Quebec are exposed to fewer ads than children outside of Quebec.
Advertising and marketing techniques work to influence behaviour. Health experts, and the food and beverage industry alike, have long recognized the impact that advertising unhealthy foods and beverages has on children. Unfortunately, voluntary efforts to reduce marketing to children have not worked. While some industry members have taken steps to restrict certain marketing practices to children, this legislation supports a stronger, comprehensive approach and has the potential to create substantial change for Canadian children.
In an effort to protect the health and wellness of Canadian children, the government is focusing the marketing restrictions on unhealthy foods that are high in salt, sugar, and saturated fat. These nutrients are associated with an increased risk of chronic disease and obesity. As such, they are also the nutrients which the WHO recommends we focus on in defining unhealthy foods for marketing restrictions.
The vast majority of children are consuming sodium at levels that are associated with an increased risk to health. In fact, the average daily sodium intake of Canadian children exceeds the recommended upper limit by a staggering 80%. This excessive intake of salt is putting children at increased risk of developing high blood pressure.
Our children are consuming excessive amounts of sugar, largely due to sugary drink consumption. The 2014-15 Canadian health measures survey reported that 16% of children and youth were drinking sugar-sweetened beverages every single day. Research has shown that this can contribute to an increased risk of tooth decay and childhood obesity. In Canada, tooth decay affects 57% of children aged 6 to 11 years, and nearly one-third of Canadian children are overweight or obese. Diets that are high in sugar, salt, and saturated fat play a large role in this alarming statistic.
This legislation, along with the various initiatives under the healthy eating strategy, will support better health outcomes for Canadians. Placing restrictions on the marketing of foods and beverages that are high in salt, sugar, and saturated fat will make it easier to choose whole foods that are the foundation of a healthy diet, foods that align with the dietary guidance provided in Canada's food guide and encourage a healthy diet and growth.
As the healthy choice becomes the easier choice for Canadians, we hope that the food and beverage industry will shift toward producing and promoting more foods that better meet the nutritional needs of Canadian children. This initiative aligns with the Department of Agriculture and Agri-food's food policy for Canada, which supports the need to increase access to affordable foods and grow more high-quality healthy food.
Research shows that marketing influences what children eat and drink. We know that food has a direct impact on health and well-being. This is why Bill S-228 is important to protecting the health and well-being of all children in Canada. Today, this marketing of unhealthy food and beverages is so pervasive that we need to play our part by providing parameters on the advertising of unhealthy foods and drinks directed at children.
I ask the House to support Bill S-228 in order to protect the health and well-being of all Canadian children by restricting the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages.