EU must protect kids from junk food marketing

By June Shannon Policy News   |   9th Nov 2021

New coalition calls on EU to regulate to end harmful junk food marketing to children

A European coalition of health, medical, consumer and child and family organisations and NGOs has called on the EU to protect children from what it has described as “the harmful impacts of the widespread, ubiquitous and insidious marketing” of junk food.

The coalition, which includes a number of high- profile EU health organisations including the European Heart Network; of which the Irish Heart Foundation  is a member,  has developed a Blueprint Food Marketing Directive  outlining how the EU can use its powers to effectively regulate cross-border marketing of junk food to children.

In its Food Marketing Directive, the coalition calls on the EU to legislate for  a number of provisions including, an end to junk food  marketing between 6am and 11pm on broadcast media, including television and radio, and an end to the marketing of junk food on digital media, including social media and video sharing platforms.

The Directive also calls for an end to the sponsorship of events, such as sports events with cross-border effects unless brands can prove that such sponsorship is not associated with junk food, and an end to the use of marketing techniques appealing to children for the promotion of junk food, including on food packaging.

Young people across Europe see more than four ads for sugary, fatty and salty food on television each day.

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According to the Coalition, “young people across Europe see more than four ads for sugary, fatty and salty food on television each day. Digital marketing is enabling ever more tailored and persuasive approaches, but remains largely unchallenged. Despite several promising recent national initiatives, such as in the United Kingdom and Spain, European countries and the EU have so far failed to effectively regulate cross-border marketing.”

“Reliance on industry self-regulation is a false promise, as recently once more attested in the case of the EU Pledge,” the Coalition added.

The Coalition also said that this new Directive was timely given the recently adopted European Parliament Own Initiative Report on the EU Farm to Fork Strategy which called for an “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 Call to Action and blueprint Directive were launched and debated during an online event entitled “Towards a childhood free from unhealthy food marketing: Exploring the next frontier for European”. This event took place today (9 November) and was attended by European experts, policy-makers and supporting organisations.

" What is needed is action at European level on advertising and marketing to underpin better national policies and regulation,”

Kathryn Reilly, Policy Manager , The Irish Heart Foundation

One of the speakers at the European event was Kathryn Reilly, Policy Manager with the Irish Heart Foundation.

According to Ms Reilly, “In recent years, a trend towards more food and marketing restrictions at state level to fight childhood obesity has come to the fore.

“In Ireland, following advocacy work by the Irish Heart Foundation through our Stop Targeting Kids Campaign, our legislators in a Parliamentary committee only last week called for a ban on this marketing, as well recommending that self-regulation, or other non-statutory mechanisms, are not included as part of the advertising regulatory framework.

“The ubiquitous and relentless promotion of snacks, sweets, fast food and confectionery to children is becoming greater every day. What is needed is action at European level on advertising and marketing to underpin better national policies and regulation,” Ms Reilly added.

Prof Em Raymond Vanholder, European Chronic Disease Alliance (ECDA) said, “Children have the right to grow-up in environments that are conducive to good health. They are at a crucial age of development where quality nutrition plays a great role in health and many risks associated with unhealthy diets begin in childhood. A significant share of the mortality and disease burden attributable to chronic diseases is caused by dietary risk factors, we need to protect our younger generations from exposure to the marketing of food and beverage high in fat, salt, or sugar specifically targeting children and adolescents, notably online and on social media”.

Dr Patrick O’Sullivan, Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME) also addressed the online event. According to Dr O Sullivan, “Promoting healthy living cannot just be the responsibility of the health sector. A multi-sectoral approach is needed. Action in primary prevention is essential to ensure that people are able to live as healthy lives as possible, which will in turn reduce the incidence of NCDs (non-communicable diseases)  and the resulting premature deaths in the populations.”

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childhood obesity European Heart Network junk food marketing stop targeting kids

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