WHO Europe Health Ministers agree to take actions against "HFSS" food marketing to children


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Meeting in Vienna on 5 July, health Ministers of the WHO European region (53 countries) adopted the “Vienna Declaration on Nutrition and Noncommunicable Diseases in the Context of Health 2020” and agreed to make the reduction of food marketing to children one of their priority actions in the fight against unhealthy diets.

Whilst the declaration acknowledges that there is no “one size fits all” solution, taking “decisive action” to reduce “HFSS” food marketing to children is on top of the list of focus areas that national governments should consider, alongside common approaches to promote product reformulation, taxation, consumer-friendly labelling and nutrient profiling tools which facilitate a healthy choice.
The document reaffirms the endorsement of the WHO Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2013–2020, adopted in May 2013, and its target of achieving a 25% relative reduction in premature mortality from NCDs by 2025. It also recommends strengthening networks of countries committed to implementing specific action such as the Action Network on Reducing Marketing of Foods to Children and the Action Network on Salt Reduction.

In her opening speech, WHO Europe Regional Director Zsuzsanna Jakab highlighted the rising obesity level in Europe and criticised the influence of the food industry as well as the weakness of self-regulation. She noted that: “We are confronted with challenges from not just the tobacco industry but also other powerful industries, such as the food industry”, adding that: “Industry also has a role to play. I call upon it not merely to seek voluntary agreements that limit the power of governments to regulate but truly to engage with product reformulation, improving labelling and marketing products in a way that makes industry part of the solution”.

She also lent her support to a report released by WHO Europe on 18 June entitled: “Marketing of foods high in fat, salt and sugar to children: update 2012–2013”, saying that that: “(%u2026) when I recently launched a regional report on the marketing of food to children, I reaffirmed my strong belief that the trends, especially in childhood obesity, can be reversed if we take the necessary steps, now.

Prior to the meeting, WFA sent a letter to WHO and all 53 WHO Europe Health Ministers responding to the criticisms raised in the report against industry' self-regulatory initiatives.

Next steps:
  • WHO Regional Committee for Europe will formally adopt the Declaration at its 16-19 September 2013 meeting in Izmir, Turkey and will use it to finalise WHO Europe Food and Nutrition Action Plan 2014-2020.
  • Several WHO Europe member countries have already indicated that they will use the Vienna Declaration as a reference for developing future national policy plans on NCDs.
  • WHO Europe will update the 2006 European Charter on Counteracting Obesity (the “Istanbul Charter”), with a focus on nutrition.

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