TORONTO – A new report trying to tackle childhood obesity in Ontario is urging the province to ban the marketing of junk food to kids under the age of 12.
The Healthy Kids Panel makes wide-ranging recommendations in its report but is not considering a junk food tax.
“The kinds of measures that we’re recommending in that package of recommendations will, in fact, change the trajectory on this issue,” said Alex Munter, co-chair of the panel that wrote the report.
The panel did consider the Ontario Medical Association’s call for a junk food tax, however, decided it is not necessary for now.
Health Minister Deb Matthews said the province is focusing on implementing the recommendations.
“We are committed to seriously considering every one of these recommendations,” she said.
“This is not a nice to-do, this is a must-do. The number of kids obese and overweight has grown by 70 per cent over the last 30 years.”
An estimated 75 per cent of obese children grow into obese adults.
Kelly Murumets, co-chair of the panel, said reducing childhood obesity will require work by all — not solely the government.
“Minister Matthews and our government can’t resolve this issue alone,” she said.
“This will take all of us from the public sector, private sector, not-for-profit — together arm-in-arm to go and tackle this.”
“There’s no silver bullet in this issue. There is no one solution that is going to be the way you resolve childhood obesity.”
The report is also urging a ban on promotions and displays of high-calorie, low-nutrient foods at the cash in stores. It wants restaurants to display the calorie counts of each item on their menu.
The report also recommends a universal nutrition program for all publicly-funded elementary and secondary schools.
According to 2004 government statistics, 27.5 per cent of Ontario kids between the ages of 2 and 17 were overweight or obese.
In 2009, the province spent an estimated $4.5 billion for the direct and indirect costs of obesity.