A Regulated Approach to Healthy Eating: Enforcing Packaging and Advertising to Restrict Consumption of Foods High in Salt, Saturated Fat, and Sugars

  • May 30, 2023
  • Julia Witmer, student-at-law, G.S. Jameson & Company

Today, we are inundated with messaging. The messaging urges us to use, wear, and eat certain products. Rather than being a clear commercial or section in the newspaper, advertisements today often look like content from your favourite social media account. The advertisements are targeted to your interests and embedded directly into your stream of content. This type of advertising is extremely effective, and the world of influencing has continued to prove that. For example, consumers began drinking chlorophyll in 2021 because influencers advertised health benefits for doing so. Spoiler alert: unless you’re a plant and can photosynthesize, chlorophyll will be of no benefit to you. The success of influencing and advertising is especially concerning depending on the product being advertised and to whom is being influenced.

Countries around the world, including Canada, are focused on reducing the consumption of foods high in salt, saturated fats and sugars and are worried specifically about advertising directed to children. Health Canada wants to ensure that consumers, including children, are reasonably educated, and are making informed choices. Health Canada’s Healthy Eating Strategy was released in 2019 and it aims to promote public health and reduce diet-related chronic diseases through healthier food choices. Under the Strategy, Health Canada has already released a new food guide, updated the nutrition facts tables and ingredients lists requirements, introduced a ban on partially hydrogenated oils, and released front of package labelling (FOP) requirements for prepackaged foods high in sodium, sugars, or saturated fat. Now, Health Canada is proposing to amend the Food and Drug Regulations to restrict advertising to children of foods that contribute to excess intake of sodium, sugars or saturated fat.  This article will briefly outline the history and forthcoming plans for restricting advertising to children and the FOP labelling requirements now in force.