Norway leads Europe in protecting children from “unhealthy” food marketing
An updated policy to reduce children’s exposure to advertising practices relating to unhealthy foods has been developed by the Norwegian Government and is now subject to public consultation.
As in many other European countries, children in Norway are increasingly overweight and obese. According to the Child Growth Study, which provides data to the WHO Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative, 19% of children in Norway aged 8–9 years old were already overweight or obese in 2010.
Norway’s initiative is a timely and strong response to the findings from the European research community and supports WHO recommendations. The proposed new policy provides an example to other Member States in the WHO European Region to take action to reduce children’s exposure to the marketing of foods high in saturated fat, “trans” fat, free sugars or salt.
WHO recommendations for concerted action to reduce children’s exposure to food marketing
In May 2010, the World Health Assembly endorsed a set of recommendations on the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children. The recommendations call for concerted and decisive national and international action to reduce children’s exposure to marketing that promotes foods high in saturated fat, “trans” fat, free sugars or salt.
Since 2007, WHO, Norway and several other Member States have worked very closely within the remit of an action network on marketing of food to children, led by Norway. This work and the support of the Norwegian Government have been instrumental in the adoption of recommendations and actions to protect children from the pervasive effect of undesired marketing practices.
A range of national regulatory measures
Marketing food and beverages to children is a major issue in the WHO European Region and countries have responded in different ways. Some have introduced statutory regulations that ban advertising. Others have implemented non-statutory guidelines and self-regulation that impose some limitations. Policy tools range from legislation to public/private partnerships, with particular emphasis on regulatory measures.
According to WHO, regulatory measures should include the adoption of regulations to substantially reduce the extent and impact of the commercial promotion of energy-dense foods and beverages, particularly to children, and the implementation at both national and international levels of the set of recommendations on the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children endorsed by the World Health Assembly. WHO recently issued a manual that serves as an implementation framework for these recommendations.
Several WHO documents highlight the need for action in the area of marketing of food to children, including:
- the Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health;
- the European Charter on Counteracting Obesity;
- the World Health Assembly resolution on the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases: implementation of the Global Strategy (WHA 60.23);
- the WHO European Action Plan for Food and Nutrition Policy 2007–2012; and
- the Action Plan for implementation of the European Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases 2012–2016.
Further, the declaration at the United Nations High Level Meeting on Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases and the most recent report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food strongly urge quick and strong action in this field.