The ban, which came into play on the 1st of this month, sees the advertising code’s age limit increased from seven years old to 12 years old.
This previous ban on adverts to children below seven introduced in June 2005 and amended in February 2010 was regardless of medium or type of food product, unlike these latest changes which covered all foods targeting children under 13 except those meeting a certain nutritional criteria based on saturated fat, sugar and salt content and calorie count.
The code was proposed by the trade association Dutch Food Industry Federation (FNLI) previously as a voluntary pledge for its industry members, but has now been extended to non-members and is binding as part of the Dutch Advertising Code.
The Netherlands arm of pressure group Food Watch has criticised the update decided in December last year for not going far enough. It said the standard still failed to take into account packaging and point-of-sale material as well as online games and in-school activities. They also raised questions over the nutritional criteria laid out.
The Dutch consumer association Consumentenbond also disagreed on these points, claiming that under the rules Kellogg’s Honey Pops cereal would be allowed.
Room to wriggle?
Firms are not allowed to use school premises to advertise products, for example giving out samples. However, there is still the possibility of partnerships with schools if approved by the appropriate authorities. Critics say this could be used as a loophole by some less responsible firms.
Responding to this point, a spokesperson for the Dutch Advertising Code (NRC) told us: “Online games and activities with schools can under circumstances be considered as advertising, also under the adapted Advertising Code, so if Foodwatch has objections, they can submit a complaint to the Advertising Code Committee.”
Under the code food firms must clearly indicate advertising sections of online games, and children must not be encouraged to promote products by, for example, ‘liking’ or sharing on social media sites.
The spokesperson said the disagreement on the exclusion of packaging and point-of-sale material was long-running, but the nutritional criteria was a new element as it had not featured in the previous version of the code.
Who you talkin’ to?
One element of advertising to children was the use of comic characters well known by their role in television programmes specifically targeting children. However, such figures created by the advertiser themselves did not come under this definition.
Whether the form of advertising targeted children was defined by “generally accepted research of the reach” saw that over 25% of the public for whom the advertising was intended consists of under 13s, with this ultimately ruling out certain broadcast schedule slots.
Cans and cannots
The code also covered the kind of products which could be made available in schools, stating only regular portion sizes not maxi or king size were permitted.
It also laid out rules on the type of scenarios allowed – ruling out those which promoted overconsumption or suggested the product was better than others or would make children more popular within their peer group. Negative statements referring to those who may choose not to consume confectionery were also not permitted nor were those to the effect that confectionery could replace a normal meal. This product group also came with certain dental health requirements should as featuring an image of a toothbrush to highlight the importance of dental hygiene and not featuring the product's consumption before bedtime.