Food and drink companies in child ad pledge

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Eleven major food and beverage companies, including Nestlé and Coca-Cola, have jointly pledged to change the way they advertise to children. The commitment follows Commission calls to restrict advertising of unhealthy foods as childhood obesity is rapidly increasing in the EU.

Major food and beverage companies represent some two thirds of the sector’s total advertising expenditure. The EU announced, on 11 December 2007, that they had established a common benchmark against which they can jointly monitor the implementation of company-specific commitments to responsible advertising to children.

The participating companies (Burger King, Coca-Cola, Danone, Ferrero, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Kraft, Mars, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever) are committed to:

  • Stop, by the end of 2008, advertising to media audiences with a minimum of 50% of children under 12 years old, except for products which fulfil specific nutritional criteria based on accepted scientific evidence and/or applicable national and international dietary guidelines; 
  • not engage in commercial communication activities in primary schools unless they are specifically requested to do so for educational purposes; and; 
  • commission, starting in January 2009, independently-verified compliance monitoring of the commitments. 

“The move follows recent calls by the EU for the food industry to use commercial communications to support parents in making the right diet and lifestyle choices for their children,” states the companies’ joint press release. The voluntary commitments are made to the EU Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, following the Commission’s White Paper on obesity (May 2007). 

The White Paper called on private actors to play an active role in developing healthy choice for consumers and empowering them to make healthy lifestyle decisions. The paper also called on the industry to advertise responsibly and announced that the Commission will, in 2010, assess the self-regulatory measures and determine whether further measures are needed.

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