Members of the European Commission’s committee on environment, food safety and health (ENVI) came together yesterday to vote on proposed amendments to the Audiovisual Media and Services Directive (AVMSD), which is currently being revised.
They voted in favour of restricting unhealthy food marketing during children’s peak viewing times such as during family programmes - not just adverts broadcast around programmes specifically aimed at children. They also extended restrictions to video-sharing platforms, such as YouTube.
Romanian MEP and vice-chair of the ENVI committee, Daciana Sarbu, welcomed the changes, saying they would would help fight child obesity.
However, support did not extend to using stricter nutrient profiles to define what foods are considered unhealthy.
European consumer rights organisation, BEUC, had called on the politicians to use nutrient profiles established by the World Health Organisation (WHO), but they backed industry's own nutrition criteria instead, leaving campaigners disappointed.
According to the nutrient profiles set by industry-led initiative, the EU Pledge, breakfast cereals that contain up to 30 g of sugar per 100 g of product may be marketed to children. In comparison, the WHO's nutrient thresholds set the limit at 15 g.
BEUC director general, Monique Goyens, said: “Industry’s voluntary efforts to market their products more responsibly are inadequate. Self-regulation is not delivering and at least MEPs have called on governments to take a greater lead if we are to protect children.
“However, it is a pity that MEPs have missed a chance to really improve children’s health. With one third of children either obese or overweight in Europe, it’s time to act.”
Signed in late 2007, the EU Pledge is a voluntary commitment made by companies including Nestlé, Unilever, Mondelez, Mars and Coca-Cola to "change the way they advertise to children”.
In December last year the Dutch food industry, headed by the trade association, FNLI, pledged to stop using licenced cartoon characters to sell unhealthy food
and drink aimed at children up to 13 years old.
If followed through – it must first conduct an assessment to ensure it is not in breach of rules on the EU’s single market - licensed characters, such as Disney’s Nemo, will disappear from some products’ packaging and point-of-sale materials. However, this does not apply to characters that are particular to a brand, such as Tony the Tiger on Kellogg’s Frosties or Coco the Monkey on Coco Pops, not will it cover adverts on not radio, television, print or social media.
In the same month, the UK’s Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) increased restrictions on marketing junk food to children to cover non-broadcast media, including print, cinema and online social media, a move which was supported by the trade group, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF).