France, 50 thousand signatures against junk food marketing

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Over 50 thousand signatures support the petition launched in France by Foodwatch to regulate the marketing of junk food, supported by public health experts, scientists, consumer and user associations, and parent representatives. (1)

France, junk food and obesity

France, like much of Europe, is also affected by the epidemic prevalence of obesity, overweight and related diseases. (2) And the French government, like many others, has continued to give credence to the industry’s promises to limit the exposure of young and very young people to junk food, namely High in Fats, Sugar and Sodium (HFSS). (3)

17% of children and of French adolescents are overweight or obese and 50-70% of them will remain so into adulthood. This data is also relevant in terms of public health. Overweight and obesity increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver syndrome and even cancer. (4) One in six French children is destined to suffer from these pathologies in the future.

French inaction

The industry’s course of action of junk food continues to absolve itself from HFSS food dealing with useless campaigns inviting people to do sport. The problem is elsewhere.

According to Foodwatch, the French government recently missed five opportunities to protect the health of its youngest citizens:

– loi EGAlim (2018),

– various parliamentary proposals on industrial food or junk food,

– reform of public broadcasting (2020),

– Climate and Resilience Act (2021)

– regulation of influencer excesses (2023). (5)

Parents bypassed

A fallacious narrative puts the burden on parents to protect children from consuming junk food. But the mission is difficult, considering that (net of the time spent by parents at work), children are inundated with obesogenic messages conveyed through marketing that insinuates itself through video games, TikTok competitions, influencer dramas, application promotion, competitions , partnerships, sponsorships, cartoon characters on packaging, etc.

There’s no way parents can control everything and take sole responsibility in the face of the proliferation of media channels and the explosion of social networks. Marketing pressure has increased dramatically with the emergence of increasingly sophisticated techniques of unconscious influence‘, thunders Foodwatch France.

Young consumers, a prairie to be exploited

Cynicism and the desire to accumulate money leaves no room for responsibility. ‘For producers, a consumer acquired at a young age is priceless. Trusting that producers self-regulate is foolish‘, says Foodwatch, which in its latest survey showed that 86% of the 228 analyzed products intended for children contain too much sugar, fat and/or salt according to WHO criteria. (6)

Examples to follow

France Unfortunately, she is not alone in this misfortune. However, the way out exists.

WHO Europe since 2010 it has been asking governments to legislate to limit young people’s exposure to food marketing and advertising. (7) So far, Norway (2023) and the United Kingdom (2018) (8,9) have heeded the call and adopted legislation in response to this public health emergency. Germany, (10) Spain and Finland are working on legislation to this effect.

The bravery of other parliamentarians and governments in the EU is expected at the gate.

Marta Strinati

Footnotes

(1) Pourquoi il faut mettre fin au matraquage publicitaire des industriels de la malbouffe sur nos children. Foodwatch France. 28.10.23 https://www.foodwatch.org/fr/actualites/2023/pourquoi-il-faut-mettre-fin-au-matraquage-publicitaire-des-industriels-de-la-malbouffe-sur-nos-enfants?mtm_campaign=MTC&mtm_medium=post&mtm_source=linkedin

(2) Sabrina Bergamini, Dario Dongo. Obesity, childhood obesity and marketing. WHO Europe 2022 report. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 16.6.22

(3) Marta Singed. Identikit of ultraprocessed foods, excess of critical nutrients and ‘cosmetic’ additives. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 2.9.23

(4) Dario Dongo. Junk food, immune system tilt. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 29.1.18

(5) Marta Singed. Additives at risk in Daygum Ferragni rubbers. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 17.7.22

(6) See also Marta Singed. Baby food, 68% is junk food. European research. 30.10.19

(7) Sabrina Bergamini. Obesity, childhood obesity and marketing. WHO Europe 2022 report. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 16.6.22

(8) Dario Dongo, Giulia Baldelli. Childhood obesity. The English example for Italy. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 1.11.18

(9) Dario Dongo. England, stop advertising junk food thanks to the Health and Care Bill. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 2.5.22

(10) Marta Singed. Germany sets new limits on junk food marketing to kids. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 1.3.23.

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Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".