Call to protect children from the marketing of nutritionally poor food

Key demands for EU action

9 Nov 2021

We call for the adoption of legislation by the European Union (EU) to improve public health, prevent non-communicable diseases and promote children’s rights, by effectively protecting children from the harmful impact of the widespread, ubiquitous and insidious marketing of nutritionally poor food.

The EU has extensive powers to regulate all forms of cross-border marketing to improve the functioning of the internal market, whilst ensuring a high level of public health, consumer and children’s rights protection, in line with the EU Treaties and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

We call on the EU to regulate the cross-border marketing of food and minimise the exposure of children to nutritionally poor food marketing by:

  1. Ending the marketing of nutritionally poor food between 6am and 11pm on broadcast media, including television and radio;
  2. Ending the marketing of nutritionally poor food on digital media, including social media and video sharing platforms;
  3. Ending the sponsorship by food brands of events with cross-border effects, including sports and cultural events, such as festivals, unless brands can prove that such sponsorship is not associated with nutritionally poor food; and
  4. Ending the use of marketing techniques appealing to children for the promotion of nutritionally poor food, including on food packages. In particular, influencers and other personalities shall not promote nutritionally poor food.

All children, including adolescents, must be protected from harmful marketing. A child is defined as any person below the age of 18, in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that all EU Member States have ratified.

The definition of nutritionally poor food should be based on the WHO Europe nutrient profile model.

We consider that action to create sustainable, empowering environments conducive to the good health and well-being of future generations is not only warranted, but also feasible. We therefore present a blueprint Food Marketing Directive as a discussion document to relaunch the debate on the protection by the EU of children from the harmful impact that the marketing of nutritionally poor food has on their health and on their rights.

“We are supporting the call for the European Union to protect children from the excessive marketing of unhealthy food and drinks. We know that marketing junk food to children encourages children to choose unhealthy products, which in turn can contribute to childhood obesity. Seeing just 4.4 minutes of junk food advertising leads to children eating an extra 60 calories a day.

“Childhood obesity and excess weight are significant health issues for children and their families. There can be serious implications for a child’s physical and mental health, which can continue into adulthood. We know that helping children get a healthy start in life is really important. By supporting children to eat healthily and get moving from an early age, we aim to help them develop healthy habits that could help reduce their risk of developing cancer and other diseases later in life.

“It’s time that we saw policies in place across the EU that protect children from this harmful marketing and put health first.” – Kate Oldridge-Turner, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at World Cancer Research Fund International

> Download a copy of the main statement and endorsing organisations