The JRC has released practical guidance to support EU Member States in reducing the exposure of children and adolescents (up to 18 years old) to the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages, including alcohol.
Addressing marketing that promotes unhealthy diets to children and alcohol consumption among young people is an area of urgent action in public health policy. From traditional channels to social media, the exposure of children to marketing is increasing. Marketing of foods and beverages that are high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, sugar or salt can influence the food preferences, diets and health of children.
Marketing of alcoholic beverages can also influence attitudes, intentions and initiation of alcohol consumption among adolescents. This is likely to affect their health in the long run. Unhealthy diets are associated with overweight and obesity in children. Children with overweight are at increased risk of having weight-related problems also as adults, and of developing non-communicable diseases. Alcohol consumption can lead to dependence and increases the risk of diseases (including cancer).
Measures to Protect Children
EU Member States have several instruments at hand to protect their children against different forms of marketing. For example, according to the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive, Member States should encourage the use of co-regulation and support self-regulation efforts to limit children’s exposure to marketing of such products. This directive has recently been revised, meaning that EU Member States are now transposing it into national legislation.
The JRC releases its toolkit to support the development and update of codes of conduct in this area. It consists of a checklist of the main aspects that a marketing code should include. One of the key aspects of a marketing code is that it should protect all children, i.e. up to the age of 18 years old. The code should also cover all forms of marketing. This means not only audiovisual marketing, but also for example billboards in the streets, marketing at schools or on vending machines. Moreover, countries need to take coordinated action, especially regarding cross-border marketing. Digital marketing should also be one of the focuses as it is more pervasive, personalised and targeted. Finally, it is also important to regularly monitor and evaluate a marketing code.