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Reducing the marketing of unhealthy foods to children


Work Package 6

Children are constantly exposed to marketing messages both offline and online. The information they receive affects their food choices.

Our project sets out plans to take forward further marketing and advertising restrictions across the EU – especially in the digital world – to help achieve a reduction in childhood obesity.

Our vision

As eating habits are formed at an early age, getting the right nutrition information will give children a better chance to grow up to be healthy adults.

Our goals

  • to identify, develop and share best policy practices to reduce exposure of children to the marketing of unhealthy foods;
  • to develop harmonised protocols and tools to monitor the extent and nature of marketing exposure of children;
  • support Member States with the implementation of the new EU rules on audiovisual media services. 

Why act?

Our knowledge-base

A multinational research network, EU Kids Online regularly maps children’s and parent’s experiences of the internet. Their latest EU Kids Online 2020 report includes new findings from 19 countries. Click here to read more.

Children and adolescents’ are very much exposed to food and beverage marketing in social media apps as well. This study shows to what extent.

Evidence of a study shows that acute exposure to food advertising increases food intake in children but not in adults. Click here to read more.

WHO commissioned a review of evidence on the global extent and nature of food promotion to children, and its effects. Click here to read more.

Children are consuming excessive calories and exceed recommended intakes of total fat, saturated fats, added sugars, and sodium. Click here to read more.

An Exploratory Study examines the ratio of healthy and unhealthy food and beverage cues featured in YouTube videos of social media influencers popular with children. Click here to read more.

A report on food-related TV ads viewed by children and adolescents between 2002 and 2017 shows well the high exposure of our youngsters to unhealthy food marketing activities. Click here to read more.

A study based on data from 22 countries presents a global overview of children’s television advertising exposure to healthy and unhealthy products. Click here to read more.

A recent publication of WHO Europe provides up-to-date information on the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children and the changes that have occurred in recent years. Click here to read more.

A new media but same old tricks – a study examines the potential impact of  food marketing to children in the digital age. Click here to read more.

Click here for more background studies 

What will Best-ReMaP do?

Develop a harmonised EU nutrient profile model

To support the implementation of the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive, Best-ReMaP will develop, test and pilot a harmonised EU nutrient profile model based on the WHO Europe model, which will identify foods that may and may not be marketed to children (Report D6.1 is foreseen in June 2021)    

Develop guidance on Codes of practice

Restriction of marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages that promote unhealthy dietary habits to children and adolescent is an area of urgent action. Based on the regulatory codes of some Member States and also on international good practices and documents,  guidance for code of conduct will be developed. This will build on the Joint Research Centre toolkit in form of a checklist of the main aspects to be covered in codes of practice. An inventory of specific actions will also be developed. (Report D6.2 is foreseen in March 2022)

Develop a harmonised EU monitoring protocol

Some countries, regions or projects have already developed protocols to monitor unhealthy food marketing to children.  These include the Nordic monitoring protocol, the INFORMAS approach and the WHO CLICK Monitoring framework. Best-ReMaP will review the existing tools and develop and test a comprehensive EU approach monitoring the marketing of unhealthy food to children. (Report D6.3 is foreseen in May 2023)

Propose an EU Framework for Action

The successfully identified tools and actions will be consolidated in an EU Framework for action, which will provide guidance for policy implementation measures across the EU Member States. Regular updating through a high-level EU expert platform on nutrition is planned following the end of this Joint Action to facilitate the sustainability of its results. (Report D6.4 is foreseen in September 2023)

What will Best-ReMaP do?

Develop a harmonised EU nutrient profile model

In order to support the implementation of the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive, Best-ReMaP will develop, test and pilot a harmonised EU nutrient profile model based on WHO Europe model, which will identify foods which may and may not be marketed to children (Report D6.1 is foreseen in June 2021)    

Develop guidance on Codes of practice

Restriction of marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages that promote unhealthy dietary habits to children an adolescents is an area of urgent action. Based on regulatory codes of some Member States and also on international good practices and documents, a guidance for code of conducts will be developed. This will build on the Joint Research Centre toolkit in form of a checklist of the main aspects to be covered in codes of practice. An inventory of specific actions will also be developed. (Report D6.2 is foreseen in March 2022)

Develop a harmonised EU monitoring protocol

Some countries, regions or projects have already developed protocols to monitor unhealthy food marketing to children.  These include the Nordic monitoring protocol, the INFORMAS approach and the WHO CLICK Monitoring framework. Best-ReMaP will review the existing tools and develop and test a comprehensive EU approach to monitor marketing of unhealthy food to children. (Report D6.3 is foreseen in May 2023)

Propose an EU Framework for Action

The successfully identified tools and actions will be consolidated in an EU Framework for action, which will provide guidance for policy implementation measures across the EU Member States. Regular updating through a high level EU expert platform on nutrition is planned following the end of this Joint Action to facilitate the sustaniability of its results. (Report D6.4 is foreseen in September 2023)

How the EU regulates food marketing to children?

The European Union adopted the Audiovisual Media Services Directive at the end of 2018 to coordinate national legislation on all audiovisual media. One of the main goals of the directive is the protection of children and consumers. The implementation of this Directive is underway in the Member States.

What is nutrient profiling?

Nutrient profiling is “the science of classifying or ranking foods according to their nutritional composition for reasons related to preventing disease and promoting health”. WHO Europe has already developed a Nutritient profile model to help countries identifying foods that may or may not be marketed to children, which is a critical tool for the implementation of restrictions.

Toolkit of the Joint Research Centre

In order to support EU Member States in the area of marketing codes of conducts, the EU Science Hub, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) adopted a guidance based on a thorough analysis of statutory, co- and self-regulatory marketing codes that are in place in the EU and beyond. To inspire future codes, it is given in the form of an inventory of specific actions extracted and adapted from these codes.

How the EU regulates food marketing to children?

The European Union adopted the Audiovisual Media Services Directive at the end of 2018 to coordinate national legislation on all audiovisual media. One of the main goals of the directive is the protection of children and consumers. The implementation of this Directive is underway in the Member States.

What is nutrient profiling?

Nutrient profiling is “the science of classifying or ranking foods according to their nutritional composition for reasons related to preventing disease and promoting health”. WHO Europe has already developed a Nutrient profile model to help countries identifying foods that may or may not be marketed to children, which is a critical tool for the implementation of restrictions.

Toolkit of the Joint Research Centre

In order to support the EU Member States in the area of marketing codes of conduct, the EU Science Hub, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) adopted guidance based on a thorough analysis of statutory, co- and self-regulatory marketing codes that are in place in the EU and beyond. To inspire future codes, it is given in the form of an inventory of specific actions extracted and adapted from these codes.

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