CMDC Responds to Bill S-228 | Marketing of Food and Beverages to Children in Canada

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CMDC Responds to Bill S-228 | Marketing of Food and Beverages to Children in Canada

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We believe that Bill S-228 and the ensuing regulations being developed by Health Canada officials pose a significant risk to the advertising agency business and employees. The Bill S-228 decision affects all parties in the media ecosystem, not just the advertisers, but broadcasters, publishers, talent, production, sponsorships and all other key stakeholders in the media industry.

We believe it is essential to have all parties address the obesity issue with meaningful solutions that can better society and the Canadian economy. It is vital that Canada charts its own path on media and advertising policy. Policy-makers must advise all parties when continuing to shape an agenda that works in the best interests of Canada’s businesses and citizens.

Over 80 organizations are united to address marketing food & beverage to kids. Ron Lund, President and CEO, Association of Canadian Advertisers Advocacy in action delivered food-for-thought at our CMDC Conference by breaking down the potential consequences of federal legislation (Bill S-228) geared toward prohibiting food and beverage marketing to children. 

Lund’s association represents the interests of hundreds of Canadian client-marketer organizations, all of whom share and support the Government’s goal of combating childhood obesity and fostering public health.

Lund laid out how the bill, when paired with Health Canada’s proposed regulations, goes too far and would amount to a ban of advertising to adult audiences as well, by also banning ads for foods deemed to be “unhealthy” by government (such as cheese, yogurts and cereals). These restrictions would occur during broad swathes of the TV day: weekdays from 6-9 a.m. and 3-9 p.m., and all-day on weekends – plus, online on websites, platforms and apps that are popular with children, even when these platforms are intended for adults.

The bill also proposes further restrictions on packaging and labelling, sales promotions, sponsorships, as well as the use of licensed characters and celebrities.

“While your business might not actually market to children, this bill will nonetheless have a major impact on your ability to communicate with your customers,” Lund warned.

An ACA-commissioned economic impact study found the restrictions would reduce advertising revenues by around $1-billion while reducing GDP (by billions of dollars) as well as employment and wages within the sector. Corporate sponsorship revenues would also be reduced in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

ACA has met regularly with federal government officials, including the day before the CMDC Conference. That day, Lund appeared as a witness before the Standing Committee on Health. There, he proposed several solutions to achieve the government’s goal without having the massive impact on Canada’s food and beverage industry.

Among the solutions was to amend the age in the legislation to define children as under 13, rather than 17, something the Liberal government has committed to do.

Bill S-228 has since been tabled in the House of Commons, where it is expected to receive Royal Assent in June 2018. Restrictions could begin by June 2020.

Key Insights

1. Canada’s food and beverage industry supports a regulatory approach to restrict advertising of foods and beverages high in sugar, sodium and/or saturated fats to children. However, Health Canada’s proposed regulations go too far and will have serious economic impact on the Canadian economy.

2. Because Bill S-228 itself is vague, regulations will likely be extensive and industry will need to be active to have input into the consultation process.

3. The help and support of nearly everyone who attended the conference is needed for the advertising industry to maintain its license to market legal products in a responsible manner.



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