France considers food ad restrictions


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Proposals to ban HFSS food advertising are part of a report released on 28 January following a request by the French Minister of Health in the context of the national health programme. Entitled: “Proposals for a new impetus to the French public health nutrition policy in the context of the national health strategy,” the report contains fifteen proposals and recommends, among other things, advertising restrictions, colour coded labelling and taxation on foods that do not fulfil a certain nutritional score.

The report was called for by Health Minister Marisol Touraine and prepared by Professors Serge Hercberg, a prominent nutritionist and member of the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM), and Arnaud Basdevant, a specialist in chronic diseases. They form a series of recommendations designed to be help update and revise the National Nutrition and Health plan. This 'revision' is set to end in 2015.

Up until now, there are no regulatory restrictions on what types of products can be advertised on French TV. Advertisements for all processed foods must carry a generic mandatory health warning – e.g. “For your health, eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day”, or “For your health, avoid snacking between meals” - while the food charter (“Charte Alimentaire”) signed by advertisers, producers, broadcasters, as well as six government Ministers, commits the industry to incorporate healthy eating and lifestyle messages on food and beverage TV spots and to produce a certain number of hours of editorial content which promotes healthy lifestyles and physical activity in and around youth programmes. A number of revisions and amendments have also been made to the French self-regulatory code on food marketing by the self-regulatory authority (ARPP).
  • Colour-coded nutritional score and labelling - Professor Hercberg recommends attributing each product with a nutritional score as well as one of five colour codes (green, yellow, orange, fuchsia and red), to be displayed on packaging and/or on the shelves.
  • Daytime ban on advertising - Advertising of food products achieving a low nutritional score would be prohibited from being advertised on TV between 7am and 10pm. Dietary supplements or other products referring to diet would be banned from advertising on all media.
  • Taxation proportional to the nutritional content – the report recommends different rates of VAT for products, depending on their nutritional score.
  • Fruit and vegetables coupons" - Professor Hercberg proposes the distribution of non-exchangeable coupons for the purchase of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as “sports coupons” to encourage physical activity.

Health Minister Touraine has not commented publicly on the report yet.

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