WHO Committee Calls for Broad Curbs on Children's Food Marketing


WASHINGTON—A World Health Organization (WHO) technical committee report calling for broad restrictions on food marketing to children should serve as a blueprint for action by the next Congress, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

“Congress should instruct the Federal Trade Commission to reduce the volume of junk food marketing to children,” said CSPI legal affairs director Bruce Silverglade, who participated in the WHO meeting leading up to the publication of the report. “This WHO technical report provides a policy blueprint on how that objective can be achieved. The technical report recognizes that self-regulatory programs cannot reduce the overall volume of junk food marketing to children.”

The report, Marketing of Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages to Children, calls for “national action to protect children from marketing by substantially reducing the volume and impact of the commercial promotion” of junk foods, and concluded that “exposure to the commercial promotion of ... foods relatively high in saturated fat, free sugars and salt, and low in essential micronutrients and fiber ... adversely affect children’s nutritional status.”

The WHO technical committee set out four regulatory possibilities for the U.S. and other governments to adopt, depending on “cultural, legal and regulatory climates,” and describes how the various approaches have been used in other countries. Those options were:

• Prohibiting promotional marketing of energy-dense, micronutrient-poor food products at specified times, in specified settings, using specified techniques or targeting specified age groups;

• Prohibiting the commercial promotion of energy-dense, micronutrient-poor foods and beverages to children;

• Prohibiting the commercial promotion of all foods and beverages to children (except approved public health campaigns promoting healthy diets);

• Prohibiting all commercial promotion of any products to children.

WHO says it must review those recommendations “for technical merit, financial implications, and appropriate roles for the Organization.” CSPI has called for legislative and regulatory action in the U.S. based on the first two of these policy options.

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