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Abstract

Objective:

Food and beverage marketing has been associated with childhood obesity yet little research has examined the influence of advertising policy on children's exposure to food/beverage marketing on the Internet. The purpose of this study was to assess the influence of Quebec's Consumer Protection Act and the self-regulatory Canadian Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CAI) on food manufacturer and restaurant websites in Canada.

Design and Methods:

A content analysis of 147 French and English language food and restaurant websites was undertaken. The presence of child-directed content was assessed and an analysis of marketing features, games and activities, child protection features, and the promotion of healthy lifestyle messages was then examined on those sites with child-directed content.

Results:

There were statistically no fewer French language websites (n = 22) with child-directed content compared to English language websites (n = 27). There were no statistically significant differences in the number of the various marketing features, or in the average number of marketing features between the English and French websites. There were no fewer CAI websites (n = 14) with child-directed content compared to non-CAI websites (n = 13). The CAI sites had more healthy lifestyle messages and child protection features compared to the non-CAI sites.

Conclusion:

Systematic surveillance of the Consumer Protection Act in Quebec is recommended. In the rest of Canada, the CAI needs to be significantly expanded or replaced by regulatory measures to adequately protect children from the marketing of foods/beverages high in fat, sugar, and sodium on the Internet.