Nordic countries publish new protocol for monitoring food marketing to children

As part of their efforts to tackle childhood obesity and promote healthy diets, 5 Nordic countries have launched a joint initiative to monitor food marketing to children in their countries using fully comparable methods. The aim is to use the monitoring to inform evaluation policy decisions on this topic.

There is unequivocal evidence that the marketing of foods and beverages high in saturated fat, trans-fatty acids, free sugars or salt (HFSS) influences children’s knowledge, attitudes and food preferences and is associated with increased risk of overweight and obesity. Based on this evidence, WHO has called for government action to reduce the harmful impact of food marketing on children. As more and more countries take action to introduce policies that restrict marketing of HFSS foods to children, WHO has encouraged them to establish monitoring mechanisms to evaluate the impact in terms of reducing children’s overall exposure to marketing and in limiting the persuasive content of marketing communications.  

Recognizing this challenge, the Nordic countries have published a joint monitoring protocol in order to evaluate policies and monitor trends over time. In particular, the new monitoring protocol addresses the growing influence of non-broadcast marketing, such as online marketing via social media platforms, and in-store promotions. These issues had not been well addressed in previous methodologies. Representatives and experts from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden devised the methodology.

WHO/Europe supported this process and contributed to the development of the methodology. The protocol aligns with the WHO Set of Recommendations on the Marketing of Foods and Non-Alcoholic Beverages to Children and the objectives of the WHO European Food and Nutrition Action Plan 2015–2020. In addition, the methodology recommends the use of the WHO/Europe Nutrient Profile Model as one of the available tools to categorise foods marketed to children. The Nutrient Profile Model was developed as a tool together with Member States participating in the WHO European Action Network on Reducing Marketing Pressure on Children.