European Parliament rejects food ad bans


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On 26th April 2012, the European Parliament's Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Committee voted in favour of a draft report on “vulnerable consumers”, which rejected proposed restrictions on marketing to kids.

Furthermore, the Commission acknowledged food industry self-regulation, tacitly referring to the EU Pledge. Earlier versions of the same report “deplored” the marketing of certain foods to children and even called for a ban on all advertising targeting children under 12 years.

28 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted in favour of the draft report by Spanish Socialist MEP Maria Irigoyen Pérez, while only one (Dutch extreme right MEP Laurance Stassen) voted against it. Importantly, a compromise amendment endorsed by the Socialists (S&D), the Center-Right (EPP), the Liberals (ALDE), the eurosceptics (EFD), and the Conservatives (ECR) on advertising to children was accepted by a very large majority:
“Underlines that children and young people, who increasingly suffer the consequences of sedentariness and obesity, are more sensitive to advertising for food with high fat, salt and sugar content; welcomes self-regulatory initiatives and codes of conducts launched by businesses to limit children and young people's exposure to food advertising (such as the ones launched in the framework of the European Commission's Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health), and calls on all stakeholders to effectively educate and inform children, young people and their caregivers about the importance of a balanced nutrition and of an active, healthy lifestyle; in this regard calls for an in-depth analysis by the European Commission whether stricter rules are needed regarding commercials aimed at children and young people; urges the Commission to include the protection of children among the main priorities of the Consumer Agenda, with particular focus on aggressive or misleading TV and online advertising;”

Some concerns remain however that the compromise text does demonstrate ongoing concern amongst some MEPs regarding marketing to children more generally. They urge the European Commission to assess the extent to which the current rules are sufficient in order to protect children from aggressive or misleading practices.

In addition, the following amendment (AM.108) introduced by French center-right MEP Philippe Juvin was accepted: “Voices its concern about the impact on vulnerable consumers of the routine use of online behavioural advertising and the development of intrusive online advertising practices, especially through the use of social networks (%u2026)”

An amendment introduced by extreme left MEP Kyriacos Triantaphyllides calling for a ban of advertising targeted at children under 12 years old was rejected.
Two amendments introduced by Danish Socialist MEP Emilie Turunen calling for a ban of alcohol marketing targeted specifically at children were also rejected as 16 MEPs voted against and 13 in favour.

This 'non-binding' report has no direct legislative consequences but will likely influence the work of the European Commission, which will publish before summer its “Consumer Agenda” which sets out the challenges, priorities and actions of EU consumer policy for 2013-2019.

The European Parliament as a whole will vote on the report on 21 May in Strasbourg.

WFA has been closely engaged with key MEPs throughout the whole process to share its vision of responsible marketing communications to children. WFA – and colleagues from the Responsible Advertising and Children Programme coalition, including the European Radio and TV Sales Houses (egta) presented compelling evidence on the success of voluntary initiatives, such as the EU Pledge, and invited IMCO members to consider explicit acknowledgment of these self-regulatory efforts.

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