TV and web advertising, European Parliament calls for limits on foods high in fat, sugar and salt

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On 31.1.17, the ENVI Commission (Environment, Public Health and Food Safety) of the European Parliament adopted its opinion on the proposed revision of the so-called. ‘Audiovisual Media and Services Directive’ (AVMSD, dir. 2010/13/EU).

The document, signed by Hon. Herbert Dorfmann (Forza Italia), highlights the need to protect vulnerable groups of consumers, such as children and minors, from the promotion of foods and beverages high in salt, sugar and fat (so-called HFSS, High Fats Sugars and Sodium), as well as alcoholic beverages.

The river of childhood obesity, overweight and related diseases is overflowing, with serious impact on the health and well-being of future adults but also serious social and health costs. It is therefore not surprising that MEPs are returning to the issue of ‘junk food’ (or ‘of indulgence’, in the rhetoric of Big Food), trying to curb its publicity with the most devious and topical tools, such as the product placement, i social media and the platforms of video-sharing.




A step forward by the same Parliament




, which in April 2016 had succumbed to pressure from the




lobbies


of big industry, proposing then to abolish so-called nutrient profiles that were introduced in the previous legislature to prevent the use of nutrition and health claims on nutritionally unbalanced foods. (1)




The Environment Committee of the European Parliament




therefore now calls for the exposure of children and minors to audiovisual commercial communications to be:

– minimized, on alcoholic beverages, of which immoderate consumption should never be encouraged. Alcohol advertising should be excluded before, during and after programs aimed at children, and should in any case be prohibited during peak hours from the point of view of their


audience




,

– controlled, as far as HFSS food and beverages are concerned. In the sense that their promotion should neither accompany nor be included in programs directed to children (but may precede or follow them, please note), nor in those broadcast during their peak viewing hours. Advertising of HFSS foods should also be ousted from the content of video platforms aimed at children.





Product placement





è



generally allowed in audiovisual media services, outside of news and ‘current affairs programs, consumer or religious broadcasts, programs and content aimed at children (but not also, it should be noted, those aimed at families).

A periodic report on the state of implementation of the directive is to be submitted by the European Commission to the Parliament and the Council in the four years following its adoption and at successive three-yearly intervals. If the outcomes are not consistent with the objectives set, also taking into account good practices and self-regulatory codes, the Commission will accompany the report with a regulatory proposal.

Measurements still rather tentative, which will have to pass the plenary Assembly’s scrutiny before being accepted by the Council and finally being transposed by the member states. With further delays in finalizing implementation measures. (2) Provided that the


‘Corporation’




(3)



based in Canada will not challenge its application, relying on CETA now in the home stretch).

Dario Dongo

Notes

(1) See reg. EC 1924/06, so-called NHC (


Nutrition & Health Claims Regulation




), Article 4 (Nutritional Profiles)

(2) In fact, the concept of HFSS should be defined by the same institution, the European Commission, which in more than 10 years has failed to finalize the nutrient profiles mentioned in the previous footnote

(3) The ’10 big sisters of food,’ to name a few. https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/big-food-i-marchi-italiani-delle-10-grandi-sorelle-del-cibo/

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.