The food and beverage industry is responsible for serious ethical transgressions in advertisements directed towards children. There is a need for more stringent legislation to protect young people from harmful advertising. This is why studies have been conducted to analyze the relationship between food and beverage advertisements and children. These studies have shown that food and beverage advertisements are heavily advertised on television programs targeted at children. Moreover, the rates of advertisements to different age groups show a significant difference.
In order to investigate the influence of the food and beverage advertising rate by target age group, multiple linear regression models were used. Ads featuring products that appealed to children were identified in 30% to 41% of the ads. Food and beverage advertisements included beverages, snacks, and miscellaneous. A food and beverage advertisement is defined as one that carries a health appeal. For instance, a meal kit such as Hello Fresh may have a meal replacement component. Other advertisements can be classified as food-related promotions such as subscription services and delivery services.
As part of its regulatory practices, CONAR monitors food and beverage advertisements. Since 2006, CONAR has adjudicated advertisements. It has also played a proactive role in denunciations of ethical transgressions. However, despite its proactive role, some critics have pointed out its limitations in punishing violations.
Some of these criticisms revolve around the potential bias that may arise from the conflict of interests between advertisers and broadcasters. However, this is not the only criticism that could be attributed to the regulatory body. Many civil society organizations have questioned CONAR’s self-regulation.
Several studies have evaluated the extent of food and beverage advertising to children in Ontario and Quebec. Most of these studies are based on qualitative research. While the results are promising, more detailed rulings are required for the monitoring of advertising. Moreover, future research should consider large fluctuations in the rates of advertising. Likewise, future studies should also look into the advertising practices of food and beverage companies.
Although many food and beverage advertising campaigns are targeted to any age group, a significant difference in the annual rate of exposure was observed between the target age groups. Specifically, the average exposure to children in Quebec was 43.6 per year, while the average exposure to children in Ontario was 83.6.
Despite the positive impact of the federal intervention, some civil society organizations have raised concerns about the effectiveness of the Canadian Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CCFAI). They have argued that CCFAI does not take into account overt violations by television broadcasters in Canada. Furthermore, they argue that more detailed rulings are needed in order to avoid legal battles and lawsuits.
Among the issues that can be considered in the future studies are whether there are changes in food and beverage advertisements rates over time, whether the food and beverage industry in Canada has relapsed in ethical transgressions, and whether more strict rules would benefit children. Future studies should consider advertising by individual company and should benchmark food and beverage advertisements by their effect on children.