April 26, 2013 – Positive initiatives to tackle the global obesity epidemic is reverberating around our planet. Organizations are implementing changes to their policies, integrating proactive measures and acting responsibly for what has been so blatantly apparent and what they can no longer deny – social conscience, awareness and accountability. This long overdue chain reaction in asking corporations and parents to do the right thing for all the right reasons brings the obesity plight to a crucial crossroad from a moral and ethical standpoint that echoes: "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."
Majority of foods marketed towards children are unhealthy. More and more countries in Europe are adopting legislation on the availability and advertising of unhealthy food.
After a year long consultation the Broadcast Authority of Ireland (BAI) with the government's support made a decision to ban high fat, salt and sugary food commercials before 6:00 p.m. such as biscuits, cakes, potato chips, fizzy drinks, sweets, pizza, sausages, burgers, breakfast cereals, sweetened milkshakes and fruit juices.
Celebrities, sports stars, and TV program characters will also be banned from promoting food that is deemed unhealthy. Commercials can no longer contain health and nutrition claims or promotional offers and no more than 25% of advertising sold by a broadcaster can be for high fat, salt, and sugary foods. The new rules for commercial broadcasting were launched January 2013 and will come into effect on July 1, 2013.
SWEDEN and NORWAY
25 years ago, Sweden, the only European member with a total ban on advertising for children, forbade the advertising of junk food aimed at children under 12. Norway has similar legislation.
Since March 2007, new legislation for advertisers with unhealthy food and beverages must carry health messages and should they ignore the new legislation they will have to pay a fine of 1.5% of the cost of the advertisement. This legislation applies to all media - newspapers, television, radio, magazine and online advertisements. Vending machines selling soft drinks and chocolate bars were banned from schools since 2005.
In 2005, vending machines selling soft drinks, crisps and chocolate bars were banned from schools and in 2006, confectionery, crisps and fizzy drinks were banned from being included in school lunches.
Since April 2007, junk food advertisements have not been allowed during or close to programming that targets children, or those with a higher than normal proportion of viewers between the ages of 4 to 9, and from January 2008, this advertising ban was extended to cover programs that target children up to the age of fifteen.
Latvia was the first European country to completely ban the sale of junk food in schools and nurseries in 2006. This ban includes the sale of food and drinks that contain artificial colouring agents, sweeteners, preservatives, and amino acids. Caffeine is banned in all Latvian state schools and kindergartens. As part of the program, the ministry promotes healthy foods such as milk, juice, and fruits.
The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in New Delhi completed a study indicating that the incidence of Juvenile Diabetes is on the rise in India. CSE has revealed that many junk food products contain a high level of trans fats but claim they contain '0' trans fats causing confusion, mislabelling and misbranding. CSE states that junk food 'should be' banned in schools and highly recommends banning junk food advertisements during children's shows and on cartoon networks.
Researchers from the Cancer Council and the University of Sydney's School of Public Health completed a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of self-regulatory pledges by food brands within the food industry, and found that despite the pledges made in 2009, the frequency of junk food advertisements remained unchanged from the previous year.
Researchers audited food and beverage ads for a two-month period during children's programming and found there were a total of 951 breaches of combined regulations and two of the five biggest advertisers, Simplot and McDonald's, were signatories to voluntary regulations. Mike Daube, Director of the Public Health Advocacy Institute in Western Australia said the regulation codes have no credibility, were not self-enforced, and failed to protect children from obesity.
The Child Welfare League Foundation completed a recent survey citing that Taiwanese children watch on average 8,325 junk food advertisements per year - one every six minutes. Even though the Department of Health announced that the percentage of overweight and obese children between the ages of 2 and 18 rocketed from 6% to 25% over the last 10 years, Taiwan legislators are still weighing the pros and cons in lecturing people on the way they decide which foods to eat.
STATISTICS and Projections
- According to the World Health Organization in 2010, there were over 42 million overweight children under the age of five and obesity in Europe is already responsible for up to 8% of health costs and up to 13% of all deaths.
- Duke University's prestigious Global Health Institute projects that by the year 2030, 42% of Americans will be classified as obese compared to 36% today.
- A study completed by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that obesity-related medical bills cost the United States $147 billion annually.