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In brief

It is frequently observed that children are especially impacted by advertising, and special attention must be paid when marketing to them. Historically, with the exception of Quebec, which has prohibited virtually all forms of commercial advertising directed at children under the age of 13 since 1980, Canada did not specifically restrict advertising targeted at children. However, driven by growing concerns due to increases in obesity and chronic diseases, plans have now emerged to tackle these issues, including three recent developments enacted by the food and beverage industry, the federal Parliament, and Health Canada, respectively. While each of these developments aims to curb food and beverage advertising to children, how these initiatives will work together and how effective they will be remain to be seen.

In the meantime, as the regulation of advertising directed at children takes centre stage, it will be important for businesses to consider their advertising practices in Canada if they manufacture or distribute foods high in sodium, sugars, and/or saturated fats and seek to advertise them in specific media such as television and digital platforms. For now, it appears that advertising directed at children in on-premises communications will continue to be comparatively unregulated.

In depth


Although recent developments suggest advertising directed at children has only lately become a priority, the topic has been a focus of policy attention for over a decade. For example, in 2007, leading food and beverage companies launched the Canadian Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CAI), a voluntary program establishing principles for food and beverage advertising directed to children. The CAI adopted uniform nutrition criteria in 2016, resulting in many participants reformulating their products or changing the focus of their advertising.

Despite these industry efforts, Health Canada has expressed the view that self-regulatory approaches may not be effective in meaningfully reducing children’s exposure to food and beverage advertisements. As a result, in 2016, the federal Minister of Health launched the Healthy Eating Strategy, a key component of which was to restrict food and beverage advertising to children. The same year, the Minister introduced Bill S-228, an Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act, which aimed to prohibit food and beverage marketing directed at children in the belief that these advertisements contribute to child obesity in Canada.

Bill S-228 faced significant pushback on the basis that there was no evidence that exposure to specific types of food advertising contributes to obesity in children, and ultimately failed to be adopted in 2019 prior to the 2019 Canadian federal election.

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Arlan Gates practices commercial and regulatory law as a member of Baker McKenzie's Global International Commercial & Trade and Antitrust & Competition groups. He leads the Canadian Antitrust, Competition and Foreign Investment Practice, which has been ranked by The Legal 500 and Chambers Canada. He is also ranked by Chambers Canada and by Best Lawyers in the area of advertising, marketing and data protection law and leads the Canadian Advertising, Marketing and Regulatory Practice, providing support to domestic and international businesses on regulatory aspects of market entry and ongoing commercial operations in Canada and abroad. Arlan joined Baker McKenzie as a summer associate in 1999 and has also worked in the Firm's Sydney office.


Sarah Mavula is a senior associate in Baker McKenzie's International Commercial Practice Group and the Global Antitrust & Competition Group in Toronto. Sarah practices competition/antitrust and foreign investment law. In parallel, she also advises clients on marketing, advertising and product regulatory compliance.
Sarah has been recognized as a 2022 Precedent Setter in Precedent Magazine and a 2022 Lexpert "Rising Star: Leading Lawyer Under 40" in Canada. Sarah co-chaired the Inclusion, Diversity & Equity Committee in the Toronto office from 2020-2023, and regularly advises on pro-bono matters.


Jacqueline Rotondi practices commercial, regulatory, competition and international trade law as a member of Baker McKenzie's Global International Commercial and Trade Groups.

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