Report urges Ontario to ban marketing junk food to kids

A recently released report suggests that Ontario does not need a junk food tax to fight childhood obesity, but should ban the advertising of such drinks and munchies to kids under the age of 12.
Taking aim at “high-calorie, low nutrient foods, beverages and snacks”, the 63-page report to Health Minister Deb Matthews also wants to outlaw “point-of-sale” promotions and displays in stores starting with sugar sweetened drinks.
The report issued on March 4 states that all restaurants are to post calorie counts for each item on their menus. This is a measure previously proposed by the New Democratic Party and the Ontario Medical Association, along with the advertising ban.
Matthews acknowledges that not everyone will be comfortable with the recommendations, which are likely to meet resistance from the food industry.
“I’m sure it will spark a lot of conversation. That’s good,” she added, noting there has been a 70 per cent increase in obese and overweight children in the last 30 years.
Those kids are “very likely” to become obese adults, and the health system spends $4.5 billion a year treating related medical problems including diabetes, making chronic conditions resulting from being overweight, “a very expensive problem,” said Matthews.
But she would not commit to implementing the recommendation without further study, despite the fact the government has faced the same pressures before.
“I’m really worried,” said NDP health critic France Gelinas, who has sponsored private members’ bills on calorie labelling and an advertising ban in recent years.
“They cost nothing,” she told reporters at the legislature, where her Progressive Conservative counterpart, Christine Elliott, rejected the bans in favour of more education for children on healthy eating.
The Ontario Medical Association, which has supported a fat tax, said it will work with Matthews and the food and the restaurant industry to help fight obesity.
While some restaurant chains have nutritional information available in pamphlets and on display boards for diners to read, not much is available on menus in Ontario, said Stephanie Jones of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, who pledges to work with the government in reducing childhood obesity.
Alex Munter, Co-Chair of the report titled No Time to Wait said that recommendation in the report came in large part from interviews with parents who complained about their children being influenced by what they see in stores and on television.
“They don’t want to turn on the television and have their children bombarded by advertising,” said Munter, Chief Executive Officer of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa.
None of the report’s 23 recommendations calls for a fast food or fat tax as it’s not necessary yet.
Other countries, particularly in Europe, have done so, and New York’s ban on selling pop and other sugary drinks in large sizes above 473 millilitres takes effect within days.
Matthews, who appointed the panel nine months ago, said the goal is to reduce childhood obesity by 20 per cent in five years and added that the fight against obesity could take the same trajectory as the fight against tobacco, which is now banned in public places and airliners.
“It’s not that long ago the same questions were being asked about smoking,” said Matthews.  

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