Junk food adverts for kids need tighter control: EU watchdog

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition Kraft foods

Junk food adverts for kids need tighter control: EU watchdog
EU consumer watchdog BEUC is renewing its campaign for tighter controls on the marketing of foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt to children as part of a broader strategy to tackle obesity and diet-related disease.

A spokesperson for the European Consumers’ Organisation (BEUC) told FoodNavigator.com: “There is clear evidence that food marketing influences children's food preferences and choices, but that the majority of products marketed are those that go against government recommendations for healthier eating​.”

Although several major food companies, including Kraft Foods and Danone, have already backed an EU Pledge agreed in 2007 to stop advertising on TV, in print and on the internet aimed at children under the age of 12, its restrictions do not go far enough, claims the consumer association.

Specific Limitations

Speaking exclusively to FoodNavigator.com, the spokesperson identified what she claimed were four specific limitations of the current pledge:

  • It applies only to younger children and doesn't include teenagers
  • It does not cover all forms of marketing used to promote foods to children. Excluded are: Food packaging, billboards and sponsorship.
  • It does not cover all of the techniques used to appeal to children such as the responsible use of company carton characters.
  • Companies have developed their own definitions of which of their foods are less healthy.

Topping the association’s wish list are tighter measures that cover all forms of advertising and promotion. It wants older as well as younger children to be protected and clear independent criteria to determine which foods are unhealthy and therefore should not be promoted to children.

It also wants a simplified colour-coded labelling scheme on the front of food packs to provide easy-to-understand information in order to compare levels of specific nutrients between products. Red, amber and green would inform consumers as to whether the level of key nutrients (fat, saturated fats, sugars and salt) are high, medium or low (per 100g or ml of food) from a public health perspective.

Diet-related disease

Asked whether the association wants a ban on all junk food advertising to children, the spokesperson replied: “Europe has an enormous challenge in reversing rising rates of obesity and diet-related disease.

“Many, integrated actions are needed in order to make it easier to make healthy food choices. Failure to address the marketing of unhealthy foods to children will undermine other initiatives and government advice, such as offering healthier food in schools​.”

Meanwhile, last month the European Snacks Association (ESA) announced its support for the EU Pledge.

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