Black in business: chatting with the award-winning Black Rotman Commerce

Emerging student group discusses community, visibility, mentorship

Black in business: chatting with the award-winning Black Rotman Commerce

Despite being only one year into its existence, Black Rotman Commerce (BRC) has emerged as a major player in serving its student community at the intersection of Blackness and business. 

The BRC focuses on organizing networking events, hosting socials, and supporting peers as they navigate university courses and career opportunities. 

In January, its founding members — Jasmine Ali, Judson Asiruwa, Jeffrey Fasegha, Zainab Hamid, and Ayesha Mohammed — organized the second annual Black Career Conference in collaboration with the Black Students’ Association and the National Society of Black Engineers. 

Earlier this month, the BRC’s work was recognized by the Arts and Science Students’ Union, which awarded the student organization with the Terry Buckland Award for Diversity & Equity in Education. In addition to the five current members, the award was also presented to graduate Dunsin Adebise, whom Fasegha credits for initiating the idea for BRC last year. 

The Varsity sat down with the BRC to discuss their origin and raison d’être as a community space for Black students — both Rotman and non-Rotman — who are interested in business.

Tackling isolation, forming community 

Fasegha, a third-year Rotman Commerce student, spoke to the isolating experience of being a Black student at Rotman and U of T in general. “When you have such few Black students in the program, you don’t really see anybody you can directly relate with.” Asiruwa, a fourth-year Rotman Commerce student, described the BRC as a formalized product of the community that had been forming between Black Rotman students. 

Fasegha and Asiruwa also spoke about their realization that their community is much larger than they had initially imagined — especially when they consider Black students outside the Rotman Commerce program or on other campuses who take an interest in the BRC. 

Addressing the “confidence barrier”

While Rotman, in general, already provides many opportunities and resources, Asiruwa noted that accessing them can be challenging — thus justifying groups like the BRC. “Sometimes it can be a bit of a confidence barrier.”

Fasegha also described how accessing the resources provided by BRC peers, who share similar lived experiences with them, can be more intimate and less intimidating compared to general Rotman resources.

More broadly, on getting Black students to reach programs like Rotman Commerce, Asiruwa similarly noted that “just getting people to apply can sometimes be the barrier… if you know that a program is for you, you would feel more inclined to apply to that.” 

Fasegha added, “When you see somebody represent you, then you’re more likely to go there. So Rotman hasn’t historically been a place where Black students go to, and so that’s what we’re trying to change.” 

Fasegha said that BRC is working to encourage more Black high school students to apply to Rotman and U of T, acknowledging that visibility is part of the issue. 

“Having these specific communities and programs kind of lowers that barrier,” Asiruwa said. Accordingly, the key to inclusion is to make more accessible spaces, not to “to lower standards or change programs entirely for diverse sets of people.”

The importance of visibility

Ali, a third-year Rotman Commerce student, further discussed the importance of visibility and representation on campus. “Just seeing yourself reflected in leadership positions is what’s encouraging a lot of our younger years to actually go out and get involved.” 

She continued, “You have incredibly talented and qualified Black students who don’t go for these leadership positions because they just don’t see themselves represented there.”

The same issue of representation applies to startups, according to Fasegha and Asiruwa. Fasegha noted that there are venture capital funding gaps, and despite the achievements of diverse entrepreneurs, they aren’t as recognized in the media. “Less [media] coverage means lower multiples, which means lower valuation, which means lower money,” added Asiruwa.

Mentorship: paying it forward 

Appreciating the BRC’s initiative to foster genuine Black community and mentorship, Ali praised her seniors: “Rotman actually doesn’t know how many Black students there are technically in the program. So going that extra mile to first find us, and then actually cultivate organic relationships with us… mentorship blossomed at the same time as friendships.”

She emphasized the need to treat the next cohort of BRC students in a similar manner. “We feel a need to pay it forward,” she reflected. Helping one another out comes from “a common understanding amongst us that we all pitch in and we all take at the same time.” 

With files from Srivindhya Kolluru and Alex Law

U of T is updating its digital assets protection policy — what does that mean?

Changes to wording meant to clarify administrative responsibility

U of T is updating its digital assets protection policy — what does that mean?

The Planning and Budget Committee (PBC) meeting on February 25 discussed updates to U of T’s Policy on Information Security and the Protection of Digital Assets.

This policy — which was approved by the Governing Council in 2016 — protects and upholds the confidentiality of U of T’s digital assets, as well as the systems that aid in transmitting, storing, and administering this data. All three campuses are required to utilize and implement the information technology systems that best protect their digital assets.

What updates have been made?

The most prominent update in the policy is a change in wording — any use of the term “President or Delegate” is to be rewritten as “President or Designate (normally, the Chief Information Security Officer).” According to Chief Information Security Officer Isaac Straley, the reasoning behind this change was the creation of his position: a senior leader responsible for managing the portfolio.

The term ‘policy’ in the definitions section was also further clarified to refer to the Information Security Council co-chairs: a senior faculty member, and the director of the Information Technology Services Information Security Department.

These changes still need to be approved by two governing bodies before the updates take effect. The Governing Council is expected to review and amend the policy on April 2, and new guidelines are expected to be put in place in the fall, according to Straley.

Why are these updates important?

In an email to The Varsity, Straley also noted that these updates shouldn’t impact U of T students and faculty directly. He also explained that the main objective of the edits was to clearly define the responsibilities of each role.

The reasoning behind this clarification was to improve security and strengthen the council’s ability to “make more informed decisions as a result of the new role and council, reflecting the needs of the community.”

What is the relevance of this policy to the U of T community?

The policy defines terms such as ‘digital assets’ and ‘guidelines,’ but what do these terms imply for someone accessing information or using online systems on a U of T campus?

“Digital assets can be just about anything that has data or is connected to a network. That could include research information and institutional information,” explained Straley.

Digital assets can also include student laptops, as well as the infrastructure that supports their e-learning platforms such as Quercus. It is important for U of T students to keep in mind that their personal behaviour online is not mutually exclusive from the protection of U of T’s institutional assets.

“Personal exposure impacts professional lives,” Straley wrote. “We want students to have a safe online experience.”

How can you protect your digital assets?

Members of the U of T community can access Security Matters, a U of T website dedicated to cyber security education.

Users can read blogs about protecting themselves from phishing attacks, relevant cyber threat trends, and social media best practices. Individuals can also submit reports of fraudulent incidents and receive guidance about steps that they can take if they are a victim of a phishing attack.

Straley urged members of the U of T community to use multi-factor authentication for accounts that require a login. This authentication entails the use of two different log-in methods — for example, one using a token that is texted, and another using a password.

He also stressed the importance of regularly updating any information systems that you may be using. Vulnerable systems are exposed to threats of being broken into. “Everyone is at risk of that,” Straley noted. “Protect your logins and protect your systems.”

Pitch to the beat: entrepreneurs sell their ideas through live performance

Siblings Sylvia and Matthew Gehring take home $1,000 cash prize

Pitch to the beat: entrepreneurs sell their ideas through live performance

U of T Entrepreneurship Week kicked off on March 10 with a pitch competition — but with a twist. Entrepreneurs had to pitch their ideas through a performance, whether it be live painting, dance, or music at the inaugural Startup Slam.

Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education alumni Noureddin Chahrour and Leila Keshavjee judged the competition. Chahrour is the founder and president of Adrenalease Inc., and Keshavjee is founder and CEO of Happy Pops Inc.

This event was part of U of T’s Impact Centre’s larger efforts to engage students from underrepresented groups, including Black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC), women, and people from non-business backgrounds.

Many entrepreneurs fall through the cracks, unable to form meaningful relationships with investors because they often simply lack access. Startup Slam aimed to remedy this gap by teaching young entrepreneurs how to pitch, and potentially providing first-time entrepreneurs with some funding for their startup ideas.

“We really focus on trying to find many different types of ways to engage students to think about entrepreneurship,” event host Leo Mui explained, adding that “[pitching] is something that seems intimidating when everyone’s in their best suits in a room talking about financial jargon. So we want to tune that down as something creative that everyone can understand.”

Mui’s background in chemistry has informed his understanding of the need to find diverse voices in entrepreneurship, and the Impact Centre has played a huge part in his own transition from chemist to business owner.

During the event, the Impact Centre awarded a $1,000 grand prize to the winning pitch, True Sear Grill, a grilling accessory invented by siblings, Sylvia Gehring, a fourth-year business student at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Business, and Matthew Gehring, a fourth-year Rotman Commerce student.

Matthew played harmonica, setting the rhythm for the duo’s metrical pitch.

According to the pair, they have been pitching True Sear Grill for some time, and Matthew previously won top prize at the Impact Centre’s Techno entrepreneurship training program and Rotman Commerce’s Pitch Competition in 2019. Their technology is built to eliminate flareups on a barbeque grill.

Other participants’ ideas largely centred on expanding options for commercially available health care products.

Stephanie Tien, a Pharmacology and toxicology student, and Kristina Knox, a neuroscience graduate, pitched their idea for Arbre, a sunscreen for those with sensitive scalps, through a narrative sketch performance.

First-time pitchers Tien and Knox found Startup Slam’s creative emphasis welcoming. According to Knox, “just being [in] a really relaxed environment really helps.” Tien also added that the event was accessible for people, even those without the entrepreneurial background.

Maame E. De-Heer, a second-year master’s student at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health pitched her idea for The 3 C’s, an environmentally friendly disposable underwear-sanitary pad hybrid. The Startup Slam was De-Heer’s first time formally pitching her idea.

De-Heer hopes that her product will help provide women with convenient, environmentally-friendly menstrual products, something that she believes is lacking in the current market.

Minority and women-owned businesses often struggle to find capital, despite often playing significant roles in their communities. A number of factors contribute to the inability of BIPOC and women to access formal and informal training networks, secure startup capital, business loans, and ultimately, to tap into the entrepreneurial spirit.

Haman Mondouhi pitched his idea, Roots, which aims to create an app-based inventory for lullabies, nursery rhymes, and other culturally specific oral traditions that are becoming endangered as assimilation into North American culture grows.

Though he is experienced in the world of pitch competitions, Mondouhi expressed an appreciation for Startup Slam’s focus on creativity. “Honestly, I don’t think I would have expressed [this idea] in any other platform.”

“One of the most important things about the startup scene in Toronto is engaging audiences and people who wouldn’t think to get engaged in these dialogues.” Mondouhi continued, “despite the pressures you have for your family… and the career that you’ve been pursuing this whole time, think outside the box and feel free to reach out to new resources… because that changed my whole career path.”

Other ideas included Bo Sun’s Woodbio, an alcohol-free hand-sanitizer, and Jason Piao’s Sencha, a credit card that will help non-American users build credit while working in the US.

Of the event, Mui remarked, “I really feel that [entrepeneurs] must truly have a passion for what they’re doing, or else they wouldn’t be here today.”

Mui encouraged any students who might be interested in developing their startup ideas to get involved with the Impact Centre. “We hope to target students who are interested in doing something good for the world. And we help them find the right aids.”


Editor’s note (March 25, 12:27 pm): This article has been updated to correct True Sear Grill’s name.

Business Board identifies rising international tuition as barrier to recruiting from developing countries

Gender pay gap among librarians also reviewed 

Business Board identifies rising international tuition as barrier to recruiting from developing countries

On February 3, the Business Board of U of T’s Governing Council discussed outreach efforts to international students, university debt, and annual net income, as well as shared the administrative response to gender-based salary gaps.  

U of T sees large growth in student recruitment from China, India, and the Middle East

Vice-President International Ted Sargent presented an update on the International Strategic Plan to the board, providing members with updates on U of T’s efforts in global outreach and presence. 

Sargent noted that China, India, and the Middle East were the regions that saw the most growth in the number of students at the university.

When members inquired about regions that did not see much growth, particularly Africa, Sargent acknowledged that the university did not see enrollment growth in students from lower-income regions. Sargent pointed to rising international tuition as a cause to the lack of growth in recruiting students from these regions.

“We recognize that with international intuition continuing to increase at this university, [attracting students from lower-income regions] poses a challenge for us,” said Sargent.

While Sargent did not elaborate on what actions the university plans to take to address this disparity, he affirmed that the university is taking ongoing steps “to develop strategies where [the university] can have students that are truly best of the best academically and [who want] to come to the University of Toronto.”

Debt review and financial forecast

Chief Financial Officer Sheila Brown presented the key takeaways of the Annual Review on Debt Strategy, which evaluates whether U of T’s debt strategy provides sufficient debt capacity to meet its needs. 

Brown reported that the financial forecast for the university estimates a reduction of $103 million in net income “due to a smaller projected increase in revenues for this year as compared to last year,” but did not explain further.

Brown also affirmed that the current debt policies, which were approved in 2012, continue to support the university’s capital needs. Earlier this year, U of T’s credit rating had improved from Aa2 to Aa1 by Moody’s Investor Service, a bond credit rating company which conducts analysis of the credit ratings of universities in Canada, the US, and the UK. 

The Aa1 rating is the second highest rating in Moody’s credit rating scale, and signals that the university’s income obligations are “judged to be of high quality and are subject to very low credit risk.” The improved rating means that there is a higher confidence in U of T to pay back its loans without any issues.

Addressing the gender-based salary gap

Vice-President and Provost Cheryl Regehr explained the university’s administrative response to findings of the November 2019 report concerning gender-based salary equity among librarians at the university. The report found that on average, female librarians at the University of Toronto earn 3.9 per cent less than “comparably situated” male librarians.

Regehr announced that the university has set aside funds so that every woman librarian — of which there are 125 — will receive an increase to their 2019 base salary.

The next Business Board meeting will be held on March 18.

Tata Trusts invests $14 million in U of T’s Mumbai-based research centre

Investment signals growing corporate and partnership opportunities between U of T and Indian institutions

Tata Trusts invests $14 million in U of T’s Mumbai-based research centre

U of T continues to facilitate research efforts and collaborations in India. It has announced details of its partner Tata Trust’s investment for its research centre in Mumbai, and an entrepreneurship program at a leading academic institution in the country.

In 2018, the university announced plans to establish the centre as part of the School of Cities Alliance in India.

During the February 3 Business Board meeting, Ted Sargent, U of T’s Vice-President International, provided updates on the centre, including a six-year $14 million grant from Tata Trusts, one of India’s oldest philanthropic organizations and U of T’s partner in the venture.

The centre will aim to develop new ways to solve urban problems, with an India-specific focus, and while it does not yet have a physical space, it is expected that one will be open and functional later this year, Sargent explained in an interview with The Varsity. Likewise, hiring for the centre is expected to take place over the next few months.

On March 12, U of T announced that it would be developing an entrepreneurship program with the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB).

Centre could open up research, corporate partnerships

The centre is affiliated with U of T’s School of Cities, which aims to find innovative ways of approaching urban issues. In addition to its affiliations with the School of Cities and its partnership with Tata Trusts, it hopes to continue to expand its collaborations over time.

Beyond the Tata Trusts grant, the centre will sustain itself through philanthropic support from future partnerships.

“Tata Trusts is a wonderful partner,” said Sargent. “And so the hope is that when U of T… really [has] an impact on the Indian ecosystem of research, of urban innovation, entrepreneurship, over the first six years, that there’ll be the potential to partner further with Tata Trusts.”

He also highlighted the number of innovative corporations in India, and the opportunities for potential partnerships on that front.

Sargent noted that actively working in India means that there will “be opportunities to increase the amount of corporate engagement between U of T, the U of T centre in Mumbai, and Indian corporate partners.”

Research partnership with Indian Institute of Technology Bombay

Sargent also spoke of the partnership between the U of T centre in Mumbai and IITB.

The university recently announced the establishment of an entrepreneurship program as part of the partnership between IITB and the new U of T centre.

The program will include an exchange program for “budding entrepreneurs,” as well as conferences, workshops, and startup competitions. Furthermore, the partnership hopes to provide students with opportunities to work at select Indian corporations.

The goal of the new program is to “support research collaborations and develop a strong, two-way innovation talent pipeline,” according to U of T News.

Sargent highlighted the development of smart cities in India as one particular area of interest for this collaboration.

“So India… has undertaken to upgrade a whole list of some of its major population centres to become the smart cities in the future,” said Sargent “And the School of Cities and their partners at IITB will be working with specific cities in India to develop their plans, and to eventually roll [them] out.”

Plans for expansion

Beyond the centre itself, Sargent noted that U of T hopes to figure out how the work of staff and students can have a “translational impact” across different parts of the globe. He highlighted that the model for the Mumbai centre is dependent on both its location and the partnership with Tata Trusts.

“It has a very clearly defined rule that all of its funds need to be spent in India and they need to benefit the Indians directly,” said Sargent. “So we’re building the centre out on that principle.”

He also commented that the model is “India-specific” and any similar centres in the future would depend upon a number of variables, including partnerships and location.

Sargent noted that U of T is pleased with the model that it’s established for the Mumbai centre. “We think it’s a very exciting model and we’re excited to see it play out in the partnership with Tata Trusts.”

U of T’s deferred maintenance costs at all-time high

Business Board’s report outlines financial implications and steps moving forward

U of T’s deferred maintenance costs at all-time high

U of T has a record-high facility condition index (FCI), according to a report released at the most recent Business Board meeting on February 3.

The FCI is a percentage used to denote the overall condition of a building, and at U of T, it is the highest it has been in the past 15 years. It is calculated by dividing the costs of deferred maintenance by the replacement cost of a building.

Deferred maintenance liabilities, which accrue when maintenance for buildings and infrastructure are put off, are often used as a cost-saving measure.

These liabilities take into account maintenance costs such as fire protection and repairs to roofing and electrical systems.

The combined 2019–2020 FCI for all three campuses is 15.8 per cent, which is a 0.6 per cent increase from 2018–2019.

The higher the FCI, the greater the priority of addressing the building’s issues. Generally, the higher the building’s priority, the more it costs to maintain its condition, which is often the case for some of the older buildings on campus.

For instance, the Medical Sciences Building was built in the 1960s, and it would cost around $472 million to replace it.

The Business Board noted that it would cost U of T $5.6 billion to replace all its buildings across UTSG, UTM, and UTSC.

Costs and funding sources for deferred maintenance

The FCIs for UTM and UTSC are eight per cent and 23.3 per cent, respectively. Even though the FCI for UTSC buildings is higher than that of UTSG, which has a 15.8 per cent FCI, the campus’ deferred maintenance liabilities amount to only $122 million. In comparison, deferred maintenance liabilities at UTSG are estimated at $718 million in total for administrative and academic buildings.

Of the audited buildings, Innis College has the highest FCI value reported out of all three campuses, at 64.7 per cent.

The President’s Residence, at 93 Highland Avenue, has the highest FCI, at 85.3 per cent. However, this FCI value is excluded from the current combined FCI, since it is not an administrative or academic building.

At UTM, the building with the highest FCI is Maanjiwe nendamowinan (MN), at 33.9 per cent, while Highland Hall has the highest FCI at UTSC, at 41.6 per cent.

While MN is relatively new, having opened in 2018, it has a higher FCI than the Davis Building, which was built in 1974. The Business Board’s report acknowledged that this discrepancy of newer buildings with higher FCIs is a concern and plans to further investigate it.

These liabilities do not refer to the day-to-day upkeep of buildings, but rather to the costs associated with capital renewals, which are set according to provincial standards.

The deferred maintenance liabilities reported for U of T are 30 per cent higher than the rest of Ontario’s universities and colleges, according to the Business Board.

U of T Chief Operating Officer Property Services & Sustainability Ron Saporta noted that this difference can be attributed to U of T being one of the oldest institutions in Ontario and the presence of heritage buildings on campus, which drive up deferred maintenance liabilities.

“I think the report does show where we’ve got gaps, and when we know we want to start making incremental investments,” said Saporta. “It also demonstrates a lot of significant improvements on both the level of funding on addressing issues and how we take that data and make operational and engineering improvements.”

According to Saporta, funding for deferred maintenance comes through U of T’s operating budget, which includes tuition and government grants, and capital funding from the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities (MCU).

Province introduced new methods to measure FCIs

Though the 2019 FCI for U of T is the highest in 14 years, it has fluctuated before. It was at its lowest, at 8.5 per cent, in 2008, and gradually climbed to 14.3 per cent in 2012. The value started to stagnate at this point, but is climbing again.

The FCI increased from 2009–2012 as a result of a new methodology. The MCU introduced another method in 2019 which, according to the report, explains the FCI increase in 2019–2020. The latest method takes into account site infrastructure such as underground piping and landscaping.

The Business Board notes, however, that the new method will not be implemented across all sites and buildings until 2023, in accordance with the five-year audit cycle.

“The province wanted to standardize so that they can compare amongst the different sectors and… that meant that we needed to move to the provincial standard definitions,” said Saporta.

This would allow the province to compare FCIs across sectors like health care or municipal facilities.

U of T hopes to address the maintenance needs of high priority buildings, such as the Medical Sciences Building, within one year, and seek additional funding to the tune of $68 million to maintain the current FCI level.

“Beauty democratized”: English major turned entrepreneur

U of T alum Corinne Haddad on launching her own cosmetics line, 1day beauty

“Beauty democratized”: English major turned entrepreneur

The beauty industry is one of the fastest growing markets in North America, and it’s one that U of T graduate and Toronto native Corinne Haddad entered when she founded 1day beauty, a cosmetics company dedicated to “democratizing” beauty products.

Haddad graduated from U of T with an English degree in 2017. Soon after, she enrolled in post-graduate courses in business and online marketing through U of T, and in 2018, Haddad founded 1day beauty from the comfort of her home.

At the moment 1day beauty primarily sells lip products, but Haddad expressed in an interview with The Varsity that she hopes to expand to other products in the future.

According to Haddad, from product design to retail, running a startup has been a challenging process. She credits her family members for being supportive.

Haddad said that her business can become difficult at times and credits her schooling at U of T for helping her navigate some of the adversities that come with being a founder. “U of T is not an easy school,” said Haddad. “One thing you learn [after] surviving four years [at] U of T is a strong commitment to what you are doing, so you develop strict self-discipline and you never give up.”

While a major in English may appear unconventional in her line of work, it helped her become more articulate when marketing her products. While at U of T, Haddad also touched on the beauty world, writing product reviews for cosmetics and posting makeup tutorials online.

“Beauty democratized” is a core ideal of 1day beauty, as Haddad believes that everyone should have input on the products they purchase.

Unlike many larger corporations, Haddad takes a more intimate and personal approach with her customers. On Instagram, Haddad encourages followers to reach out for help with shades and products, and takes their responses into consideration when creating products for the customers.

The keywords of 1day beauty products are: “allclusive, clean & cruelty free.” Haddad’s newest design is visual impairment-friendly lipstick packaging. Haddad’s mother is visually impaired, and Haddad emphasized that this simple packaging change means that a customer can tell the different shades from the Braille on the package.

Right now, 1day beauty is still an e-commerce business.

“I feel so lucky to live in this time [when] we have the internet, [which] is so easy to get access to, and Instagram that is just there [like] a huge free billboard,” she reflected.

Haddad has relied on Instagram largely to promote products and build her business by collecting customer feedback.

Haddad has found that throughout the process she has felt really close to the community.

“Using the communities we’ve built on our social media channels to ask about product names and types, preferred ingredients, and packaging, to name a few [things].”

Haddad continued, “[this] has not only fostered a stronger relationship between us, but has also ensured that we’re always following what people want. The goal is to be as community & consumer-centric as possible.”

Child-appealing advertising for foods is associated with high sugar levels

Growing evidence for the need of stricter legislation on advertising to children

Child-appealing advertising for foods is associated with high sugar levels

Think back to your favourite childhood cereal. Was it Lucky Charms, Froot Loops, or maybe even Cinnamon Toast Crunch?

Think back to the character on the front of the box, the commercials that came between your favourite television shows, and the colourful marshmallows in every spoonful. Now think of the fact that researchers have shown that food packaging is the primary way children interact with different foods.

Most of this child-appealing marketing, or ‘marketing to kids’ (M2K), is used on unhealthy foods that contain high levels of free sugar — or added sugar. A recent U of T-affiliated paper has linked the rise of this type of marketing to a high concentration of sugars in breakfast foods.

The relationship between marketing to children and sugar

Previously, the relationship between M2K and free sugars was not established due to the lack of research on free sugar levels.

The study, co-authored by Christine Mulligan, Dr. Jodi Bernstein, Dr. Anthea Christoforou, and Dr. Mary L’Abbé at U of T’s Department of Nutritional Science, aimed to fill this gap in the literature. They also investigated the potential impact of restricting M2K for products that exceed five per cent of one’s daily value (DV) of total sugar.

This cross-sectional study used the University of Toronto Food Label Information Program (FLIP), a database which was created in 2013 with over 17,671 prepackaged beverages and foods from retailers in Canada. Once the M2K on the product packaging became an object of interest, the researchers categorized all the FLIP 2013 products into sugar-focused categories and compared sugar levels across similar foods.

The co-authors found that 92 per cent of cereals with M2K have excessive amounts of sugar. Therefore, the presence of M2K on products predicts high sugar levels in the product itself.

The link between marketing and sugar

Unhealthy food, as defined by Health Canada, includes products with a total sugar, sodium, or saturated fat content that exceeds roughly five to 10 per cent of the DV.

Since ‘total sugars’ is an extremely broad term, it is important to specifically look at free sugars to isolate truly unhealthy foods. Researchers have shown that the marketing for these foods has influenced purchasing requests, taste preferences, and consumption patterns of children.

According to the World Health Organization, unhealthy foods and marketed preferences may contribute to a worldwide increased prevalence of non-communicable diseases, such as obesity.

Childhood obesity has been shown to be a strong indicator for adolescent and adulthood obesity, which can increase the risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, hypertension, stroke, and heart disease.

“As of 2019, it is estimated that over 150 million children in the world are obese and that this will increase to 206 million by 2025,” noted the Childhood Obesity Foundation.

What is being done to prevent this?

In 2016, Bill S-228 — The Child Health Protection Act — was proposed by Health Canada as part of its Healthy Eating Strategy, with the ultimate goal of improving the nutritional quality of Canadian diets, and restricting the marketing of unhealthy foods specifically to young children.

“As of now, Canada doesn’t have nation-wide legislation restricting the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children. Bill S-228 failed to pass before Parliament dissolved for the 2019 federal election,” Bernstein wrote to The Varsity.

The results from the study support the five per cent total sugar DV proposed in Bill S-228, compared to the previous 15 per cent. Future steps include regulating product packaging to children and reducing the threshold for total sugars to five per cent, so products with excessive free sugar will not be marketed to children.

“Consumers may want to be especially [wary] of foods and beverages marketed to children as they may be higher in free sugars than similar products without the same marketing on it,” he noted.