Food and beverage associations adopt code for advertising to kids

The self-regulatory option responds to issues that arose during debates around Bill S-228.

child-main-imageA coalition of industry associations is committing to a Code for Responsible Advertising of Food and Beverage Products to Children.

The Code recognizes that children represent a special audience, and that messages built around the consumption and choice of food and beverage products should be limited.

The code is being supported by The Association of Canadian Advertisers, The Canadian Beverage Association, Food, Health & Consumer Products of Canada, and Restaurants Canada, with members having until summer 2023 to reach compliance.

Conversations about marketing of food to children were at their peak while Bill S-228 made its way through the legislative process, though the regulations were never adopted as it didn’t receive royal assent before the 2018 federal election was called.

The new Code does not replace or create any laws, regulations or guidelines, but is expressly stated at providing a self-regulatory solution to the concerns that were raised during the debate (see chart below).

It states that advertising for a food or beverage product may not be primarily directed to persons under thirteen years of age (the “child” or “children”) unless the product satisfies criteria around saturated fat, sodium and sugar content.

Code-Comparison-Chart

If a product does not satisfy the set out nutrition criteria, three criteria will be used to determine whether or not an advertisement featuring such food or beverage product is primarily directed to persons under thirteen years of age, and will consider the nature and purpose of the product advertised, the manner of its presentation, and the time and place it’s shown.

“The industry has worked for the last two years in collaboration with the federal government and a diverse community of stakeholders to achieve the shared objective of a comprehensive and workable regime to govern advertising in Canada that protects children,” says Ron Lund, president and CEO of the Association of Canadian Advertisers. 

It should be noted that packaging, labels, wrappers, containers and product shape are not considered advertising for purposes of this Food and Beverage Advertising Code. Provided they don’t directly urge a child to purchase a product, displays, in-store flyers, posters, menus, menu boards and other on-premises communications and material about a food or beverage product are expressly exempt from the Restriction.

Advertising that features a food or beverage product that does not meet the nutrition criteria and promotes an educational or charitable initiative or cause, including those associated with children or families, is not subject to restrictions, provided the particular cause is emphasized over the food or beverage.

Finally, bona fide educational programs made available to elementary or middle schools and their teachers as well as materials used in such programs will not be considered as advertising and are exempt.