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Broadcasting Bad Health: Why food marketing to children needs to be controlled

This report, by the International Association of Consumer Food Organizations for the World Health Organization consultation on a global strategy for diet and health, gives a thorough report into the trends, brands, related health problems and scale of food marketing and advertising to children.

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For every $1 spent by the WHO on trying to improve the nutrition of the world’s population, $500 is spent by the food industry on promoting processed foods.(1)

By 2001, the world food-industry advertising budget was estimated at $40 billion, a figure greater than the Gross Domestic Product of 70% of the world’s nations.(2)

The report makes these recommendations:

The world’s children need greater protection from the marketing of energy-dense, low-nutrient foods.

Experiences of marketing controls on tobacco and baby-milk show that voluntary marketing codes are unlikely to be adequate, and that stronger regulation is required.

International standards are needed to provide a coherent framework to protect and promote children’s health. We therefore urge the World Health Organization to:

1 Work with the WTO, FAO and Codex to ensure that all bodies are putting children’s health protection before trade concerns.

2 Support international controls on food marketing, including controls on cross-border television, websites and email marketing.

3 Coordinate a Statement of Responsibility, backed by the best available evidence and expert opinion, outlining the rights and responsibilities of food manufacturers and advertisers, in order that companies marketing food are fully informed of the effects of their actions.

4 Monitor food-industry marketing practices, develop suitable targets at global and regional level, and assist in the development of the strategies needed to meet these targets.

The World Health Organization is also urged to assist and support national governments to:

1 Commit public resources to promoting the increased consumption of healthy foods and the reduced consumption of energy-dense, low-nutrient foods.

2 Involve non-governmental organisations, the medical community, consumer groups and young people in policy-making.

3 Restrict or ban direct and indirect advertising and promotion of energy-dense, low-nutrient foods to children.

4 Prohibit marketing of high-energy, low-nutrient foods and drinks in schools.

5 Pre-vet all TV advertisements for food, paying particular attention to those screened in the early evening, and also those which contain health, nutrition or nutrient claims.

6 Re-write existing rules or guidelines on food promotion to tackle the cumulative effect of marketing practices.

7 Enforce effective sanctions against food manufacturers and advertisers who contravene the restrictions on marketing to children.

8 Create incentives for food manufacturers to reformulate food products to decrease energy density and increase nutrient density.

9 Expand and create publicly funded health promotion initiatives that include nutrition education and media literacy.

(1) Lang, T & Millstone, E (eds) (2002)

The Atlas of Food, Earthscan Books,

(2) Analysis based on GDP figures for 2002 from the World Bank Statistical Indicator (2003)


Section 1: Trends

Trends in diet and disease

Unhealthy food marketing: The scale of the problem

Section 2: What companies do


The power of the brand

Case studies: fast food

Case studies: soft drinks

Schools, a captive market

New technologies

Skewing the science

Section 3: Voicing concerns

Consumer concerns about food marketing

Concerns about food marketing in Europe

Professional concerns about food marketing in North America

Grassroots action

Section 4: The industry

Can the industry reform?

Can self-regulation work?

Section 5: Interventions

Public-health interventions

End note

To read this report in full, click on the link below. Adobe Acrobat Reader required.For more information, see also

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