The World Health Organization (WHO) published on July 3rd, 2023, new guidelines in the form of policies to shield children from the adverse effects of marketing food that promotes unhealthy eating habits.
The guideline calls for the introduction of comprehensive and mandatory guidelines to safeguard youngsters at all stages of life from advertising non-alcoholic and food drinks high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars, and salt (HFSS).
The most commonly advertised food categories included fast food, drinks sweetened with sugar as well as confectionery and chocolate, sweet and salty snacks, lovely bakery products and snacks, breakfast cereals, and desserts, According to WHO.
Research has shown that food marketing was primarily promoting HFSS food items, according to what the United Nations health agency noted. Food marketing was commonplace in areas like sports and schools, where children meet during TV viewing hours, in online spaces that are popular among youngsters, and in magazines that target youngsters and teens, the agency found.
The guidelines are based on the 2010 WHO “Set of guidelines regarding the promotion of food and beverages that are not alcoholic to children. The guidelines take into account the most recent research specific to children as well as the context of marketing to food.
Since then, evidence about the detrimental effects of food advertising has gotten stronger. However, there’s been no national action, and children are still exposed to advertising for HFSS foods. WHO declared.
New marketing media have developed, with the most notable being online marketing. This is an increasing risk, according to the global health authority.
The policies should be designed with the greatest interests of children as well as the context of the country, WHO experts recommended. This is a consideration of the country’s nutritional situation, its cultural context, local foods such as dietary habits, resources and capabilities, as well as current governance structures and mechanisms in addition to other factors, they said.
To create the guideline an examination of the scope of evidence regarding the effects of food items
marketing to children and the resulting diet patterns were developed in the laboratory of the researcher Dr Emma Boyland, University of Liverpool. A total of 179 research studies that were published between 2009 and 2010 were reviewed and found the “marketing of HFSS foods remains pervasive and persuasive across the globe”.
After reviewing the research, WHO recommended mandatory regulation of marketing HFSS food items and non-alcoholic drinks and non-alcoholic beverages, after previously making allowances for a variety of policies.
Another modification is the guideline’s usage of the definition of”child” taken from the Convention on the Rights of the Child to be unambiguous that policies must safeguard all children.
The guidelines urged countries to implement a nutrient-profile model and implement policies that are comprehensive enough to limit cross-medium and intra-medium transfer to ensure that marketing is not restricted through regulated channels and setting.
Dr. Francesco Branca, Director, Department of Nutrition and Food Safety, WHO said:
A shrewd and relentless advertising of beverages and foods with high levels of sugars, fats and salt to children is the reason for poor dietary choices. Demands for responsible marketing haven’t had any significant influence.
Therefore, governments should create robust and comprehensive rules, he suggested.
Unhealthy diets are a leading cause of global public health risk, contributing to undernutrition, micronutrient-related malnutrition, overweight, obesity, and diet-related noncommunicable diseases (NCD).
In 2017, in order to better understand the connection between food and NCDs, the Delhi-based think institute Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) conducted the Find Out Your Diet Schools students study. The online survey on diet was conducted to determine the food habits of schoolchildren in India were eating.
The questionnaire, aimed at children aged 9-17 years old age, also gave an immediate diet report for each participant. Over 13,000 kids participated from all states in India.
The majority of schoolchildren did not have an adequate diet, around 65 percent of the children with a low consumption of cereals and millets, according to the study. A majority of the children had a lower frequency of eating vegetables, the study revealed.
The study revealed that packaged foods were more popular with children than non-packaged foods, and about 53 percent of children ate packaged food and drinks at least one time per day.
In the month of March 2023 WHO released a list of nutrition standards that were designed to safeguard children from advertisements which promoted unhealthy foods and beverages that are not alcoholic. This WHO Europe nutritional profile model aids with the categorization of foods items to determine if they’re sufficient in terms of health to be promoted to children.
The American Heart Association in April 2019 stated that they “sees no ethical, political, scientific, or social justification for marketing and advertising low nutrient, high-calorie foods to children and supports efforts to diminish this practice”.
The magazine The Lancet included the series Commercial elements that affect the health in the month of March 2023. It stated that the commercial actors on the one on the other hand, are beneficial to society and health, and offer essential products and services.
However, a large number that is commercially active are creating the risk of unavoidable health issues as well as planetary destruction and inequity which are the main commercial factors of health.