EU health coalition calls for 6am-11pm ban on junk food advertising

By Louis Gore-Langton

- Last updated on GMT

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Related tags: European union

A coalition of European health organisations is campaigning for later watershed times and restricted product placement for adverts and television marketing unhealthy food and alcohol.  

The campaign describes itself as "a key opportunity to free Europe’s young people from health-harmful marketing".​ 

It aims to do so by altering the current Audio-Visual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) by heavily restricting the hours in which adverts for unhealthy foods and alcohol can be aired.

This would include all product placement and see foreign broadcasts effectively censored to the same EU standards.

The campaign was officially launched today in the European Parliament with an event called ‘AVMSD: What about our kids?’

Led by Romanian MEP Daciana Octavia Sârbu and organised by 10 European health organisations including the European Heart Network, the Eurocare Alcohol Policy Alliance and the European Public Health Alliance, the event featured discussions and debates amongst public health and social experts on the case for extending current limitations​.

The AMVSD is an EU-wide legislation on all audovisual media whose responsibility includes ‘protecting children and consumers’.

It has been under review since May of this year. An online petition​ ​launched by the European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing however has criticised the new draft proposal as ‘shockingly devoid’ of necessary restrictions, and asks to have the draft amended.

The ‘What about our kids’ campaign is calling for three particular measures to be added:

  1. No TV adverts for alcohol or foods high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) between 6am and 11pm. This would include all television, on-demand services and online video sharing platforms like YouTube.
  2. No product placement for HFSS products, deemed “effective marketing techniques, and should be prohibited alongside those for tobacco and medicinal products.”
  3. Ensure the above rules are applied equally to all foreign based broadcasts

Sârbu said “The European Union has a once in a decade opportunity to protect its children from ubiquitous marketing of unhealthy foods and alcohol.”

However, food manufacturers have repeatedly hit out against such measures in the past, saying that later watershed hours will have no impact in an age of digital television.

The new proposals would address exactly this, limiting advertising on all media platforms for 18 hours per day. Along with the product placement restrictions, this would greatly affect the way we currently access media in Europe.

Fiona Godfrey, policy director at the European Association for the study of the Liver (EASL), told us: "We have seen from other health determinant policy areas such as tobacco that an integrated programme of regulation including marketing restrictions on television and other mass media is effective in reducing consumption.

"[...] Children still watch a lot of television and the AVMSD provides a platform for European harmonisation in this area, so it is a good place to start. This is especially true given the cross-border nature of television broadcasting."

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