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WHO Help To Reduce Children’s Consumption of bad foods PDF Print Email

Children are still being confronted with marketing for foods and drinks that contain far too much fat, sugar or salt.  Some progress has been made but there is still much to do. It is hard to identify the foods and marketing that should be restricted across television, internet, magazines and outdoor advertising.  To help governments develop strategies to restrict the advertising to children The World Health Organisation (WHO) have established a way of identifying the harmful foods and drinks.  The European Office has developed a model for countries to adapt and use to classify foods. The tool can be used to help determine whether a product should be marketed to children.


Marketing of foods high in fat, sugar or salt has a proven harmful effect on children and encourages a preference for unhealthy food and poor diets which can lead to the development of diet-related conditions. Childhood obesity is a serious problem and growing and tighter controls on the marketing of foods to children will be a vital element to help fight it.


“Given the current epidemic of childhood obesity across Europe, there is no justification for marketing products that have little nutritional value and contribute to unhealthy diets. The tool that we are offering to countries to adapt and use would protect children from the harmful effects of marketing of foods high in energy, saturated fats, trans fatty acids, free sugars and salt” says Dr Gauden Galea, Director of the Division of Noncommunicable Diseases and Promoting Health through the Life-course at the WHO Regional Office for Europe.


The WHO nutrient profile model has been developed to reduce the pressure of marketing on children by helping countries identify foods for which marketing shouldn’t be allowed. This task was set by the WHO European Food and Nutrition Action Plan 2015–2020.


Unhealthy diets are a leading factor affecting health and well-being in every European country; rising overweight and obesity among children is particularly concerning. Affecting up to 27% of 13-year-olds and 33% of 11-year-olds. There is strong evidence of a link between exposure to food advertising and unhealthy diets and obesity in children. The leading categories of marketed foods are soft drinks, breakfast cereals, fast food, biscuits, confectionery, ready meals and snack foods. The ability to recognise brands starts very early and children who can identify multiple brands by the age of 4 are more likely to eat unhealthily and be overweight. Research has shown that overweight children in particular respond to branded food packaging by increasing their consumption.


The WHO European Office developed its nutrient profile model after looking at models already in place in Denmark and Norway which are used to restrict food marketing to children and are seen as successful.  The Norwegian model was developed by health authorities but the Danish one was developed by a trade association for responsible food marketing communication.


Countries will be able to use the WHO model to develop and implement policies to restrict food marketing to children in two ways:

  • use as it is, or after adapting it to their circumstances, to identify foods not to be marketed to children; or
  • to monitor the extent and nature of food marketing.


If you are concerned about your child’s weight or even your own or someone else’s your local pharmacy os a good place to start.  Often with a private consultation room, they offer free advice and a range of options to help.