WHO EURO calls for food marketing controls


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The WHO Regional Office for Europe has published a European Food and Nutrition Action Plan 2015–2020, due to be adopted at the 64th session of the Regional Committee in Copenhagen on 15–18 September 2014, alongside an accompanying resolution. It was prepared in light of existing global policy frameworks on Non-Communicable Disease (NCDs) and ongoing work at regional level (especially the Action Plan for Implementation of the European Strategy for the Prevention and Control of NCDs – 2012-2016 and the Health 2020 policy framework). It aims to reduce the burden of preventable diet-related diseases and calls for action through a whole-of government, health-in-all-policies approach.

The Action Plan cautiously supports multistakeholder approaches, within rules for private sector engagement set by government and avoiding conflicts of interest.
In a section on “healthy food and drink environments”, the document invites Members States to:
  • Adopt strong measures that reduce the overall impact (exposure and power) on children of all forms of marketing of foods high in energy, saturated fats, trans fats, sugar or salt
  • Ensure independent monitoring and evaluation
  • Use common tools in the context of policies to reduce marketing such as nutrient profiling, to “make clear which food products may and may not be marketed to children”, adopted or adapted according to the national context on a voluntary basis.
  • Ensure that schools and other settings in which children gather are free from all marketing of foods high in energy, saturated fats, trans fats, sugar or salt.
  • Promote product reformulation – including salt reduction (reference is made to the ongoing WHO work to develop a salt reduction toolkit).
  • Improve consumer-friendly labelling on front of packages.

The 2015-20 Action Plan gives Member States further guidance to help them achieve the agreed objectives, including on the reduction of the overall impact of food marketing on children. It argues that “experience suggests that self-regulatory, voluntary approaches have loopholes and government leadership is required to establish the criteria for policy and for independent monitoring to achieve optimal implementation and ensure progress in strengthening and expanding controls over time.”

It also invites Member States to develop monitoring policies to assess the extent of marketing in their country, capturing both the power and the exposure of marketing on children.

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