Reducing marketing pressure on children

Available literature demonstrates that food marketing targeting children is highly prevalent. This child directed marketing consists both of ‘traditional’ advertising, use of new electronic media, and point-of-purchase strategies and packaging. The marketed diet differs from the recommended one. Children recognize, enjoy and engage with the food promotion, and it is clear that food marketing is having an effect, particularly on children’s preferences, their purchase behaviour and consumption (i.e. increased intake of sugar sweetened soft drinks, sweet breakfast cereals, sweets and fast food). This effect operates at both brand and category level. As a consequence, current marketing of foods to children contribute to poorer nutrition and eating habits consistent with increased overweight rates.

Articles in this issue of the newsletter presents how this problem is played out in different parts of the world, such as the Eastern Mediterranean region, and the concerted action taken by WHO. The set of recommendations on the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children endorsed by the World Health Assembly last May is clearly an important milestone in this effort.

There is broad agreement regarding the need to reduce the overall exposure of marketing of unhealthy food and drinks to children, and to limit the use of particular persuasive marketing strategies. The challenge ahead is to secure intergovernmental collaboration to reduce the impact of cross-boarder marketing, to identify suitable policy approaches within countries, and to establish a system for monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of the recommendations. The European Network on Reducing Marketing Pressure on Children has developed a code on marketing food and non-alcoholic beverages to children which may serve as a useful example for how to substantiate the recommendations.

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