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12 To Be the Magic Age for EU Food Ads

 

Kid Ad Law
January 8, 2008

 

Eleven major food producers have agreed to voluntary advertising restraints in Europe in the face of threatened legislation if they did not come up with a self-regulatory proposal of their own.

The food groups have agreed to halt advertising food and beverage products to children under the age of 12, unless the products meet certain nutritional criteria. While the food companies will be allowed to develop their own criteria, they should be "based on scientific evidence and/or applicable national and international dietary guidelines," according to a release on the initiative, which goes by the moniker EU Pledge.

The voluntary ad ban applies to advertising on television, print publications and the Internet. However, advertisers left themselves leeway to continue to advertise snack foods and drinks in programming not specifically aimed at kids, such as sports and family shows. "Advertising to children under 12 years," the release noted, "means advertising to media audiences with a minimum of 50 percent of children under 12 years."

Participating companies together account for more than 59 percent of the food and beverage advertising spent in the European Union, the release stated. The participants are Burger King, Coca-Cola, Danone, Ferrero, General Mills, Kellogg, Kraft, Mars, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever.

In addition to the ad ban, the companies agreed to refrain from advertising in schools unless requested by school authorities to participate in measures for "educational purposes." The participants have committed to publishing company-specific guidelines implementing their pledges by the end of 2008. The release states there will be independent monitoring of compliance with the EU Pledge, but does not say which organization will conduct the monitoring.

The EU's health and consumer affairs commissioner, Markos Kyprianou, had threatened to force an ad ban through legislation if companies did not voluntarily agree to cease advertising food and drink deemed to be unhealthy to young children. Mr. Kyprianou is said to be forging ahead with proposed food labeling legislation that would require companies to state the amounts of fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt contained in foods.

The EU Pledge goes further than a similar voluntary effort by food advertisers in the United States coordinated by the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB). Participating companies in the CBBB's initiative did not agree across the board to refrain from advertising sweet drinks and snack foods to young children. They did agree to devote half their advertising budget aimed at children to healthy lifestyle messaging, and to refrain from using third-party licensed characters in advertising aimed primarily at children under 12.

 

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