World Obesity and CI reiterate call for restrictions on food marketing to under-16s ahead of WHA


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In policy recommendations released today, World Obesity (formerly “IASO”) and Consumers International call on the international community to develop a global convention to fight “diet-related ill health” similar to the legal framework for tobacco control. The set of recommendations to governments includes placing stricter controls on advertising, promotion and sponsorship of “unhealthy” foods to children under the age of 16.

The joint report entitled: “Recommendations towards a Global Convention to protect and promote healthy diets'” defines unhealthy food as: “a specific food or beverage which is recommended for reduced consumption based on national or regional, government-appointed food-based dietary guidelines or which is identified as “unhealthy” according to a government-approved nutrient profiling model”.

The recommended measures on food marketing include:
  • Restricting advertising, promotion and sponsorship to children under 16 years old, in accordance with WHO 2010 Set of Recommendations on the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children, including mechanisms for monitoring.
  • If no comprehensive ban is in place, imposing full disclosure of F&B industry
  • Working towards the development of an international code of marketing of foods and beverages designed to restrict exposure to “unhealthy” foods and beverages promotion – based on government-approved nutrient profile models.
  • Restricting the use of direct or indirect incentives (including gifts, vouchers) that encourage the purchase of “unhealthy” foods.
  • Restricting promotional practices at retail and/or point of choice, including in store positioning and signage.
  • Cooperating in the development of technologies to facilitate the elimination of cross-border advertising.

Besides these recommendations on food marketing, the authors also call on governments to improve the provision of nutrition information, require reformulation of “unhealthy” food products, raise standards for food provided in public institutions and use economic tools to influence consumption patterns.

In a press release, Consumers International Director General Amanda Long said: “the scale of the impact of unhealthy food on consumer health is comparable to the impact of cigarettes. The food and beverage industry has dragged its feet on meaningful change and governments have felt unable or unwilling to act. The only answer remaining for the global community is a framework convention and we urge governments to seriously consider our recommendations for achieving that. If they do not, we risk decades of obstruction from industry and a repeat of the catastrophic global health crisis caused by smoking.

The two NGOs will officially launch their Recommendations at a side event in Geneva during the World Health Assembly at 6pm on 21st May.

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