Fresh call for crackdown on junk food marketing

Table of Contents EU Pledge gives ‘a lot of leeway’ to food and drink brandsVoluntary

As far back as 2007, the largest European food companies committed themselves to an ‘EU Pledge’ in which they promised to change the way they targeted children in advertisements. They pledged only to advertise foodstuffs to children under the age of 12 if the products fulfilled specific nutritional criteria.

More recently, the EU Code of Conduct on Responsible Food Business and Marketing Practices contains a set of seven ‘aspirational objectives’ as voluntary commitments for action together with a monitoring and evaluation framework to measure progress. While the Commission warned it ‘will consider legislative measures if progress is insufficient’, the Code continued to leave the food and advertising industries to self-regulate.

But this voluntary approach is not working, according to the assessment of European consumer organisation BEUC.

“Time and time again, self-regulation has shown it is unable to truly restrict ads targeting children. The food industry’s own commitments simply serve to reassure policymakers on paper and buy themselves time, while our children are fed with ads promoting unhealthy foods day in, day out,”​ Monique Goyens, BEUC’s Director general, argued.

The organisation says voluntary commitments on responsible marketing ‘blatantly fail’ to protect European children from ads promoting unhealthy food.

EU Pledge gives ‘a lot of leeway’ to food and drink brands

This conclusion is based on a snapshot survey conducted by BEUC and 10 of its member organisations as part of a project initiated by Professor Amandine Garde of the University of Liverpool.