Obesity panel urges junk food restrictions for children

Childhood obesity is such a big problem in the province of Ontario, that a special panel is advising the government to ban the marketing of junk food to kids under 12. This is one of 23 recommendations made by The Healthy Kids Panel created to find solutions to what it calls “a crisis of obesity.”

“We know that kids today are fatter, rounder, weaker and less flexible than they were a generation ago….” said Kelly Murumets, co-chair of the panel. "We know that childhood obesity rates have tripled in the last decade.” In 2004 27.5 per cent of Ontario children between the ages of two and 17 were overweight or obese, according to the report.
Obesity an expensive problem, says minister

$4.5 million dollars is the estimated cost of treating problems of obesity in Ontario. “This is a very expensive problem…,” said Deb Matthews, Ontario’s minister of health, “so we simply must take action.”  The minister promised to consider the 23 recommendations in the report.

Among them;  restaurants should list the calories of each item on their menu and stores should stop putting high-calorie, low-nutrient foods in colourful a check out points in stores.

The Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association said it wants to be “part of the solution” to childhood obesity and pointe out that many of its members voluntarily put calorie counts on menus. The food industry is expected to oppose the introduction of mandatory rules.

Children see more ads for fast food and studies indicate that affects their dietary behaviours.

Ads for fast food aimed at young children were banned in the province of Quebec 30 years ago.  A study last year suggested that law resulted in fewer children eating fast food and weighing less than children in other North American jurisdictions. Panel members would like to see the same thing happen in Ontario.

The report also recommends early intervention to help prevent childhood obesity. It emphasizes good nutrition for women looking to conceive and breastfeeding for newborns.

Poverty is a big factor contributing to obesity, says the report. The government needs to ensure that fresh produce and healthy foods are available in poor areas and that prices remain accessible to poorer Ontarians.

A government committee will examine the panel’s recommendations and decide which ones to implement. The minister said some could be adopted quickly.



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