Protecting children from the harmful impact of food marketing
The World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund have released a policy brief on options to increase the protection of children from the impact of food marketing. This brief adds to the already large number of publications produced by WHO that build on the evidence base.
What should policy look like?
The brief outlines elements to be considered in policy, recommending a broad scope of marketing types and techniques to reduce the impact of both children’s exposure to marketing and the power of that marketing.
It states that a policy needs a clear definition of foods to be restricted. In Australia, we have a government-endorsed guide that is easy to use and aligns with our dietary guidelines.
What countries are leading in this policy space?
Chile: we can look to Chile for definitions of ‘appealing to children’ that include the use of cartoon characters and toys.
Peru: companies cannot use real or fictional characters, gifts and prizes to encourage the purchase or consumption of food and drinks.
Quebec: has comprehensive restrictions on any commercial advertising to children under 13 years. Their policy includes all-important enforcement mechanisms to discourage companies form breaking the rules.
The brief outlines several arguments that we have all heard over the years. In particular, the proof of the link between unhealthy food marketing and children’s health outcomes – the evidence is strong and clear.
Another point we often see raised is the place of the food industry to self-regulate. Again there is strong evidence against self-regulation as the gaps in voluntary actions make them ineffective.
Call to action
The brief calls on governments to implement comprehensive policy, including digital marketing restrictions. A comprehensive policy will reduce children’s exposure to, and the power of, marketing of foods that contribute to an unhealthy diet.
We have identified a first step for the NSW government – to remove unhealthy food marketing from state-controlled property. Please help us by joining our petition today.