Soft drink giants including Coca-Cola and Pepsi have agreed to stop targeting young children through adverts as part of a drive to tackle childhood obesity.
The decision was announced by Unesda, a federation of drinks makers in Europe that includes Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Cadbury Schweppes.
The companies have agreed not to target children aged under 12, and will also cease selling in primary schools across Europe unless products are requested by school authorities. In secondary schools, the drinks will be sold only if they’re alongside juices, water and other calorie-free alternatives, and in unbranded vending machines that promote healthy diets and lifestyles.
But this part of the agreement will be shortly superseded by the government’s promised ban on the sale of crisps, chocolate and sugary fizzy drinks in all school vending machines, which comes into force in September.
Announcement doesn’t go far enough
Obesity is classed as one of the leading causes of avoidable death in Europe, and more than 400,000 children are estimated to become overweight every year. EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou recently recommended that the food industry regulates itself by curbing advertising to children.
But Which? feels the Unesda announcement doesn’t go far enough. Chief Policy Adviser Sue Davies said: ‘Which? has been battling for years to clamp down on marketing that pushes drinks on children which, in some cases, have the equivalent of ten teaspoons of sugar.
‘This announcement is an encouraging first step from the drinks companies but they have a long way to go. Which? will keep on pestering these industries until they stop bombarding our kids with fat and sugar-loaded foods and drinks. We will particularly fight any move which doesn’t include children over the age of 12. All children are influenced by food advertising whether they’re aged four or 14.’
The Unesda companies have also agreed to offer drinks in ‘appropriate container sizes, allowing for portion control’ and to improve nutritional information on drinks packaging and increase their range of low-calorie drinks.