Restricting Marketing of Unhealthy Foods: Should General Internists Engage?

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Norm Campbell MD
Tara Duhaney MHSc

marketing unhealthy foods, World Health Organization, improve diet marketing,


Unhealthy diet is the leading risk for death, years of life lost, and disability, causing an estimated 65,722 deaths and 864,032 life years lost in Canada in 2010.1 Although the causes of unhealthy diet are complex, unhealthy eating habits start early in life, and unhealthy food and beverage marketing to children is consistently associated with unhealthy dietary behaviours and childhood obesity. Although there have been recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations urging countries to restrict such marketing to children as a population strategy to improve diet, the food industry continues to direct millions of marketing dollars to increase the sales and consumption of the very foods that contribute to disease burden. While many countries have heeded the WHO recommendations, in Canada, outside of Quebec, the food industry largely self-regulates its marketing of unhealthy food to children, with no government monitoring or oversight. The result is that Canadian children are extensively exposed to marketing of unhealthy food products that would not be allowed in several other countries. Should Canadian internists accept that
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1. Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Global burden of disease arrow diagram. Seattle (WA): The Institute, 2013; Accessed September 10, 2013.

2. Canadian Hypertension Advisory Committee. Restricting marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children and youth in Canada. Calgary (AB): The Committee, 2013; Accessed September 10, 2013.