European health and consumer organisations call on European institutions to legislate on unhealthy marketing to children

13 December 2021

On 9 November 2021, the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) held a webinar to launch a call for action to protect children from the marketing of nutritionally poor food. IDF Europe, alongside many other European health, medical, consumer, child and family organisations, called for the European institutions to adopt legislation that would protect children from “the widespread, ubiquitous and insidious marketing of nutritionally poor food.”

Food marketing affects what children eat and ultimately, their health and well-being. Millions of children in Europe and worldwide are eating too much unhealthy food which has become a leading cause of death and disability. Eating healthily is a major component of optimal diabetes management and also contributes to lowering the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and other non-communicable diseases such as cardio-vascular diseases, renal diseases and cancer.

Law and policy play a critical role to create healthy environments. For now, the EU does not have strict rules that would regulate the marketing of unhealthy products to children — it relies on voluntary self-regulation and codes of conduct of the industry. There is an urgent need for legally binding rules to protect children from exposure to all forms of cross-border unhealthy food marketing. Evidence shows that self-regulation has little positive effect and may simply serve as a way for industry to delay successful government approaches.

Under EPHA’s leadership, the group created a Blueprint Directive for legislators that is fully compliant with the constitutional principles enshrined in EU treaties. The Directive demonstrates that the EU can and should adopt legislation based on existing evidence and which upholds the best interests of the child as a primary consideration.

The group put out the following key demands:
  – End the marketing of nutritionally poor food between 6 am and 11 pm on broadcast media;
  – End the marketing of nutritionally poor food on digital media;
  – End the sponsorship by food brands of events with cross-border effects, unless brands can prove that such sponsorship is not associated with nutritionally poor food; 
  – End the use of marketing techniques appealing to children for the promotion of nutritionally poor food;
  – A child is any person below the age of 18;
  – The definition of nutritionally poor food should be based on the WHO Europe nutrient profile model.

This initiative is a timely response to the recently adopted European Parliament Own Initiative Report on the EU Farm to Fork Strategy which calls for ‘an effective and EU-wide regulatory approach to tackle the exposure of children and adolescents to advertising and marketing of processed foods high in fat, sugar and salt on broadcast and digital media.’ The group will continue engaging with all relevant stakeholders to protect children from exposure to all forms of cross-border unhealthy food marketing.

To read the full call to action, please, click here.

The full version of the Blueprint Directive is available here.