Junk Food Advertising to Kids: Self-Regulation is Failing Across Europe


Advertisingof junk food continues to undermine children’shealth despite the foodindustry’s promises that they would restrict theirmarketing activities,according to a new reportA Junk-Free Childhood2012: Marketing foodsand beverages tochildren in Europe published today by theInternational Associationfor the Study of Obesity (IASO).

The review of advertising inEurope undertaken by IASO,a not-for profitorganisation, found thatthe industry’s own figuresshow that children’sexposure to advertisementsfor fatty and sugary foodshad fallen by barely aquarter over the last sixyears.

The report’s author, Dr TimLobstein, said “The food and beverage companieswere told in 2004 by thethen European Health Commissioner MarkosKyprianou that they mustcut their advertising tochildren or faceregulation. The figuresshow that self-regulationachieved only a 29% fall in children’s exposure, which is deeplydisappointing. Exposure isnow creeping up again in some countries.”

“Theproblem is made worse because the companies areallowed to set their own standards for what theyconsider ‘junk food’ andthey set the bar too low,” said Dr Lobstein. “Ourreport found over 30 fattyand sugary foods which are classified as unhealthy ingovernment-approved schemes across Europe andthe USA but which areconsidered healthy by themanufacturers and which they allow themselves toadvertise.”

Hesaid “Each company came upwith its own definitionsof what and how itwill advertise, which it usesto its own advantage.No-one understands all thedefinitions and no-one canmonitor them effectively.This anarchy might suit the companies, but itmeans that children remain exposed to advertisingwhich encourages them toeat a junk food diet.”

“Self-regulationsimply does not work in ahighly competitivemarketplace,” said DrLobstein. “Asking thecompanies to restricttheir own marketing islike asking a burglar tofix the locks on yourfront door. They will sayyou are protected, but youare not.”

Proposalsbeing debated in Norway this month suggest thatall advertising of junk food which targets anyone under age 18 should berestricted by law. “Children have a championin Norway,” said Dr Lobstein. “We want thishigh level of protectionapplied across Europe.”

posted by Tiffany Haslacker