Centre for Science in the Public Interest

For the Record

For Immediate Release:
October 27, 2004

For more information:
Bill Jeffery, CSPI's National Coordinator,
at (613) 244-7337.


Purveyors of Junk Food, Kids' TV and Films Presume to Teach Healthy Eating to Children

OTTAWA (October 27, 2004) — Bill Jeffery, national coordinator of the Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), made the following comment on the public relations campaign launched by the so-called "Concerned Children's Advertisers."

If member companies of Concerned Children's Advertisers' (CCA) truly cared about the health of Canadian children (or adults), they would stop bombarding them with advertisements and promotions to eat candy, fatty, salty fries, burgers, and potato chips, and sugary soft drinks and breakfast cereals, and stop exhorting them to plunk down in front of TV and movie screens.

The national launch today, with the Food Consumer Product Manufacturers of Canada and the Canadian Sugar Institute, of CCA's so-called "Children's Healthy Active Living Program" is a cynical exercise in public relations gamesmanship designed to portray these industries as modelling good corporate citizenship, rather than actively promoting chronic disease in Canadian children. Incredibly, the CCA media literacy workshops and commercially-motivated 'public service' announcements will whisper to children 'eat healthy, stay active' while its member companies shout 24/7 'Eat our junk food, watch TV, movies and videos.' The direction to 'do what we say now, not what we say all the time' will have the intended effect on children's diets, zilch. The profound conflict of interest, hypocrisy and audacity of mounting this campaign could make even tobacco executives' eyes pop.

Concerned Children's Advertisers is funded and directed by a who's who of giant multinational food companies, their trade associations, and media conglomerates, including:

McDonald's, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and its subsidiary Frito Lay, Kraft, Kellogg, Cadbury, Nestlé, and McCain Foods, as well as media conglomerates like Warner Brothers, Buena Vista (a Disney company), Global TV, CTV Corus Entertainment Inc. and its subsidiaries YTV and Teletoon.

These companies are plainly more concerned about safeguarding their capacity to market their wares to children from possible future government efforts to curtail it. The group was formed in 1990, a few months after the Supreme Court of Canada defended and upheld the Québec ban on advertising directed at children under 13 by saying that '...advertising directed at young children is per se manipulative. Such advertising aims to promote products by convincing those who will always believe.' The Québec Consumer Protection Act has prohibited advertising directed at children in the province for nearly 25 years — the widest reaching and longest standing such ban on the planet.

The 40—page press kit contains no clearly discernible messages about dietary change, such as limiting foods with too much added sugar, saturated fat, trans fat, or sodium. However, ambiguous messages that calorie intake can be balanced by more physical activity, and a list of seven potential dangers of preparing fresh and leftover foods at home could definitely leave the impression that over-eating is ok and eating at home is not. I doubt this program will ever bluntly advise kids to stop drinking Pepsi or Coke, eating at restaurants like McDonald's, or watching TV no matter how good it would be for their health. Parents, teachers, and school principals should make it a policy to rely on municipal public health nutritionists and other government health officials for objective materials about promoting good nutrition and physical activity.

For more information, call: Bill Jeffery, National Coordinator of CSPI at 613-244-7337.

Background: CSPI's detailed policy recommendations for curbing the human and economic toll of diet- and inactivty-related disease can be found in our open letter to the first ministers at: http://www.cspinet.org/canada/

Every year, preventable diet- and inactivity-related heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis, some forms of cancer, and other illnesses prematurely kill as many as 21,000 to 47,000 Canadians, and shorten average healthy life expectancy by five years. The cost to the healthcare system and economic productivity of poor diet and physical inactivity are conservatively estimated to be $6 billion to $10 billion annually in Canada.

The Centre for Science in the Public Interest has urged federal and provincial governments to enact legislation to prohibit all advertising and promotions directed at children under 13 and take a number of other measures to help curb the toll of preventable diet- and inactivity-related disease. Recently, similar proposals have also been supported by expert reports published by the Canadian Population Health Initiative (an independent research group funded jointly by federal and provincial governments) and the World Health Organization.

About CSPI: The Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is a non-partisan, independent consumer health advocacy organization based in Ottawa with staff in Toronto and Vancouver. CSPI's advocacy efforts are supported by over 100,000 Canadian subscribers to its Nutrition Action Healthletter. CSPI does not accept industry or government funding and Nutrition Action does not carry advertisements.

CSPI Canada