Middlesex-London health unit targets food and beverage marketing to children and youth

In this June 30, 2014 photo cans of Coca-Cola soda pop are shown in the refrigerator inside of Chile Lindo in San Francisco. San Francisco and Berkeley are aiming to become the first U.S. cities to pass per-ounce taxes on sugary drinks. AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

London is about to get another taste of the sugary beverages debate.

Two weeks after London city council opted against removing all vending machines that sell sugary beverages from city facilities, the Middlesex-London Health Unit will turn its attention to marketing.

READ MORE: How much sugar are your kids eating? Take a look at 3 new sugar limit guidelines

At Thursday’s health board meeting they will look into ways to restrict food and beverage marketing to children and youth 16 years and younger.

A staff report says more public education about the health risks associated with sugary drinks is required and calls for the online endorsement of the Stop Marketing to Kids Coalition’s (Stop M2K) Ottawa Principles.

Earlier this month the Heart and Stroke Foundation revealed new research that said the food and beverage industry was marketing children and youth to death.

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Their research found kids between the ages of two and 11 see 25 million food and beverage ads a year on their top 10 favourite websites.

Heart and Stroke Foundation spokeswoman Leslie James told AM980 marketing is a big issue.

READ MORE: Two-thirds of packaged foods in Canada are full of added sugar

“Canadian children and youth are being bombarded with marketing for unhealthy food and beverages. It’s morning, noon and night. It’s through multiple channels, it’s not just television anymore. It’s everywhere, it’s online, it’s in schools and restaurants and recreation centres.”

READ MORE: How much sugar should you be eating? How to follow the WHO’s guidelines

The Stop Marketing to Kids Coalition (Stop M2K), founded by the Heart and Stroke Foundation in collaboration with the Childhood Obesity Foundation, is working to restrict all food and beverage marketing to children and youth 16 years and under.

The coalition has developed the Ottawa Principles, which provide definitions, scope and requirements that should be used to guide development of federal legislation to restrict commercial marketing to children and youth.

“Sugary drinks are one of the main sources of sugar in calories in our diet. We know that a quarter of youth are consuming one sugary drink daily,” said James.

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Despite city council’s decision two weeks ago to keep vending machines that sell sugary beverages in city facilities, the health unit says it remains committed to working with city staff to determine how best to improve vending machine offerings.

Council did decide to remove vending machines that sell chips, chocolate bars and other snacks.

The health unit says there is a greater public awareness about the dangers of sugary drinks and wants to build on that by tapping into London’s Healthy Kids Community Challenge fund.

The health unit says they have the opportunity to receive $15,000 from the fund, which is part of London’s Child and Youth Network, to implement a public education campaign to reinforce the fact that sugary drinks should only be consumed sparingly and that water is the best choice for hydration and health.

Thursday’s meeting comes almost a week after research from the University of Waterloo came out saying sugary drinks will cost over 63,000 Canadian lives and billions of dollars.

The research said sugary drink consumption is projected to cost the healthcare system more than $50 billion over the next 25 years.

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