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Bill S-228 prohibits “unhealthy” marketing to children. Photo: CC, wikicommons, Eigenes Werk.

Don’t rely on Health Canada to raise your kids

A study by University of Ottawa researchers from August has recently gained traction with news media outlets due to its relevance to a bill currently being passed through Parliament. At the time of this article’s publication, Bill S-228 is awaiting Royal Assent.

The study found that 72 per cent of children and youth are exposed to food marketing on social media in a single 10-minute window, so Bill S-228 aims to prohibit food and beverage marketing towards children.

The obvious concern about marketing unhealthy foods and beverages to children is that it could lead to obesity. But here’s an idea: maybe stop blaming advertisements, and start teaching your child healthy eating habits. Parents need to take accountability for their children’s health. If we shelter kids from Big Mac commercials until they’re 17, and then thrust them into a consumerist culture as adults, they won’t know how to make healthy choices. They also won’t have the judgement needed to consume unhealthy things in moderation or the knowledge that binge eating isn’t healthy.

Taking away advertisements is not the first step, in fact, it might not even need to be a step at all. Instead of trying to take away advertisements from impressionable children, who will then grow into ignorant adults, teach your children about junk food—tell them why your family doesn’t eat those foods, and lead by example. Or else, your kid will go off to university and buy order after order of 10 piece Chicken McNugget Meals.

Although many students learn about Canada’s Food Guide in elementary school health class, it’s been a controversial topic for the past few years as Health Canada moves to revamp it. Over the years, Health Canada has been  criticized for perceptions that they have been heavily influenced by industries, such as dairy and meat. There have been talks of dairy being demoted, but it’s uncertain at this point whether that means dairy will be identified as unhealthy.

Ideally, the revised Food Guide, which is being released in two parts in 2018 and 2019, would have been released to define healthy foods before this legislation was introduced. If Health Canada is passing legislation to ban unhealthy advertising to kids, but can’t yet release what healthy choices they want to promote, for now it’s up to parents to step up to the plate and fill that gap.

Think about the first-years that get blackout drunk at every party because their parents never let them have a drink with dinner. Parents who demand that their precious Hayley and Steve must be protected from unhealthy advertisements, and therefore all unhealthy advertisements should be banned, are going to get a similar result.

I’m not telling you how to raise your kids, I’m just saying that Health Canada shouldn’t be expected to.