Food ad rules not working

THE SELF-REGULATION of food advertising to children has been criticised in a new report which showed that in some European countries exposure to junk food ads has increased.

  •  New report shows children’s exposure to junk food ads remains high


Advertisements for fatty and sugary foods to children has fallen by just 29% across Europe since 2004, but in Holland and Slovenia exposure has increased by 38% and 26% respectively.


Citing figures from the EU Pledge 2011 Monitoring Report, the International Association for the Study of Obesity (IASO) concluded that advertising of junk food continues to undermine children’s health despite food industry promises.


The report, “A Junk?Free Childhood 2012: Marketing foods and beverages to children in Europe” also found that restaurants are a further unregulated opportunity for marketing to children, citing examples from menus in Portugal.


The World Advertising Federation said the figures had been taken out of context. The report flows a call for a complete ban on junk food ads before the 9pm watershed in the UK.


The food and beverage companies were told in 2004 by the then European Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou that they must cut their advertising to children or face regulation.


However, exposure is now creeping up again in some countries, a trend which the report’s author, Tim Lobstein, called “deeply disappointing”.


“The problem is made worse because the companies are allowed to set their own standards for what they consider ‘junk food’ and they set the bar too low. Each company came up with its own definitions of what and how it will advertise, which it uses to its own advantage.”


Lobstein’s report found over 30 fatty and sugary foods which are classified as unhealthy in government?approved schemes across Europe and the USA but which are considered healthy by the manufacturers and which they allow themselves to advertise.


Lobstein said that self?regulation simply does not work in a highly competitive marketplace: “Asking the companies to restrict their own marketing is like asking a burglar to fix the locks on your front door. They will say you are protected, but you are not.”


Proposals being debated in Norway suggest that all advertising of junk food which targets anyone under age 18 should be restricted by law.