9 out of 10 children’s food products, which are bad for your health, should not be marketed to young children, according to the NGO Foddwatch which is publishing a new survey. A finding that does not seem to be changing, despite the increase in childhood obesity. Amandine Garde, our expert, explains why.
Beneath the colorful packaging, junk food is still all the rage. According to a survey by Foodwatch, the non-governmental consumer defense organization, out of 228 “children’s” drinks and foods tested, 9 out of 10 products were too fatty or too sweet, compared to the nutritional recommendations of the World Health Organization. health. However, they are sold with a lot of attractive marketing.
Coca-Cola, Kellogs, Nestlé… They are all pinned
Foodwatch does not hesitate in its investigation to cite the names of the targeted brands (Coca-Cola, Ferrero, Kellog’s or even Nestlé) nor the examples of marketing campaigns that pose problems, such as featurings with stars or influencers, or even partnerships that blur the lines, like the Pitch brioches that develop podcasts aimed at children.
Added to this is attractive packaging, sometimes including games, or even commercial operations specially designed for children, denounces Foodwatch. “Junk food giants do not hesitate to develop strategies that border on manipulation. It’s totally immoral and irresponsible when we see the consequences of junk food on the health of young people.“, reacts Audrey Morice, Foodwatch Europe campaign manager.
In Europe, childhood overweight is increasing
The problem that arises, however, is more present than ever and known today: in Europe, one in six children between 6 and 17 years old is overweight or obese, due in particular to junk food, an unsuitable diet… Including manufacturers are responsible. The 23 food giants (Danone, Coca-Cola, Unilever, etc.) have, however, since 2007, signed a charter called the EU Pledge committing to reducing advertising. But commitment, on a voluntary basis, would be far from the expected result. This is why Foodwatch is now asking the authorities to impose rules on the food giants.
“The marketing of products that are too fatty, too sweet, too salty, intended for children should only be authorized for foods that meet the nutritional criteria of the WHO model,” insists the association.
A clear lack of political courage
To find out more, we questioned Amandine Garde, expert in consumer protection, public health and commercial law and policy, on a simple notion: while obesity is increasing, why is marketing placing itself still facing health, especially that of the youngest? The expert gives us the reason for an obvious lack of political courage…
“It has been years (since 2010) that the WHO has sounded the alarm by proposing recommendations to regulate food marketing in order to protect children. But in the end very few states have reacted, and Europe even less than others. What happens is that we let this marketing continue, thinking that if the marketing revenues no longer arrive, our crops for example would suffer. It therefore does not seem “opportune ” to regulate food marketing when it is aimed at children on our digital screens, in transport, in short, everywhere. Political figures are still not ready to take up this issue, even though an Inserm report issued in 2017, 6 years ago, also mentioned the need to regulate this marketing linked to the problems of obesity, overweight and diseases linked to poor diet. a lack of political courage, not a lack of knowledge. “
The misconception of an industry that can manage itself
The other problem according to the expert is the persistent idea that the industry will self-regulate, with this famous EU Pledge, this commitment from the big agri-food companies who say they want to move towards more responsible marketing. towards the children. “However, when you look more closely, you quickly discover that the definitions adopted are personal, and are not sufficient to protect children. Especially since at the same time, a very intense lobby is being carried out with political authorities to oppose any official regulation that would be effective.”
Are actions possible?
In certain countries, however, politicians have started to take up the issue, so it is possible:
- In 2006, England was able to restrict food marketing to television and is now tackling digital;
- Portugal in 2019 also passed legislation that prohibits the marketing of any junk food to children under 16.
In Europe, the problem of junk food persists among young people. For Amandine Garde, it is high time to raise our voices.
“We are at a stage where it is no longer a question of only providing information on the poor quality packaging of the product. We must also ban this advertising altogether, this is where we need political courage. As long as politicians do not really want to take up the issue and align themselves with the recommendations, we will not achieve the necessary results.”