Advocates term French food industry obesity drive 'failure'

By Lindsey Partos

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition

Consumer groups in France have slammed a 2009 charter signed by the food industry and designed to promote healthy food and fight child obesity as a ‘triple failure’.

In February last year French food associations, TV channels and advertisers linked up to sign the charter that aimed to encourage television adverts with a healthy food message for children.

But seven consumer associations grouped under the national UFC-Que Choisir group have condemned the flagrant ‘insufficiency’ of the document.

“The charter was presented as an efficient alternative to legislative measures demanded by consumer groups. Eighteen months later, the result is clear: the charter is a triple failure,”​ stated UFC-Que Choisir.

Childhood obesity is galloping across Europe, affecting some 5.1 million children in the EU 27 bloc and growing by 300,000 cases each year. And at 22 million, nearly a third of the total 75 million kids living in the EU are overweight, claim figures from the French government.

In France 3.5 per cent of children aged between 3 and 17 years old are obese, and 14.3 per cent are overweight.

Observers and consumer groups have shined the spotlight on TV adverts that target children, condemning the promotion of foods high in sugar, fat and salt through such advertising.

And despite the charter inked last year, the French associations claim that advertising spending on French TV for the drinks giant Coca-Cola and chocolate maker Ferrero -that grew between 2008 and 2009 - hit some €281m.

“Our objective is to combat advertising harassment, of which children are the direct object,”​ asserted UFC-Que Choisir.

In place of such ‘harassment’ the French consumer groups are calling for free television adverts that spin from national healthy eating campaigns.

European moves to curb HFSS ads

In 2005 EU health and consumer affairs commissioner Markos Kyprianou warned the food industry they must restrict advertising of products that are high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) to children, or face legislation.

The EU Pledge followed in December 2007 with 11 leading food and beverage companies all agreed to stop running junk food ads on TV, in print and on the internet to under-12s by the end of 2008.

The original signatories, which represent more than 50 per cent of the food and beverage advertising spend in the EU, included Burger King; Coca-Cola; Danone; Ferrero; General Mills; Kellogg; Mars, Nestlé and Unilever as well as two ESA member companies, LU Snack Foods (Kraft Food) and PepsiCo.

And in the UK, rules ushered in during 2007 prohibited advertisements of HFSS (foods high in fat, sugar and salt) in or around programmes made for, or appealing to, children.

Related topics Regulation & Safety