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More talk needed on junk food ban: councillor


Reka Szekely

Durham Region
April 22, 2008

DURHAM -- If an Ajax councillor has her way, a resolution to support a ban on advertising food and beverages to children under the age of 13 will be back on the table at Regional council.

Councillor Colleen Jordan said she was surprised the endorsement didn't fly at council when council met last Wednesday.

"I was surprised because I thought it warranted some discussion and debate and to not even afford the opportunity for discussion shows a lack of interest in children's welfare," said Coun. Jordan.

But, health and services chairwoman April Cullen said that's not the case.

"I think that the best thing we could do for our kids is turn the TV off. That would be a lot more useful for preventing childhood obesity than banning ads," she said, pointing out she'd rather see kids outside playing street hockey or riding their bikes than watching television.

The issue first came to the health and social services earlier this month. The Region's medical officer of health, Robert Kyle, presented a memo describing Toronto Public Health's request for support in calling for a ban on all food and beverage advertising directed at children under the age of 13. The committee voted to receive the memo for information and did not endorse the call for the ban.

When the issue came up at Regional council, Coun. Jordan tried to get council to re-open the issue and support Toronto's request. But, she did not get the necessary two-thirds majority to change the committee's motion into an endorsement and the issue wasn't debated.

Coun. Cullen said she's not sure why other councillors voted not to open the issue for debate. From what she understands, some are philosophically opposed to regulating business that way and others see it as too Big Brother-like.

Still, Coun. Jordan said she feels strongly about the issue and plans to reintroduce it at the next Regional council meeting on May 7.

"I think it's a very important issue, especially when you look at the statistics of obesity and overweight among young people and when you look at the billions of dollars directed at advertising junk food to children," she said.

Coun. Cullen expects that Coun. Jordan will again need a two-thirds majority to open the issue and suspects the motion will again fail.

"If you lose it, you lose it and, yes, I understand she feels it's an important issue, and I'm not saying childhood obesity is not an important issue, the difference is how we deal with it."


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