Food giants pledge to limit kids' advertsWhich? says plan doesn't go far enough

12 December 2007

boy eating doughnut

Some of the world’s biggest food and drink companies including Mars and Nestle have promised to cut their advertising to young children in Europe.

Eleven companies have agreed to limit TV, print and internet adverts to children under the age of 12 in the European Union.

Under their 'EU Pledge' initiative, the companies say they won't advertise foods and drinks to children aged under 12 unless the products meet specific nutrition criteria.

This will apply to all types of media where at least 50% of the audience are under 12 years old, and will be implemented by the end of 2008.

Food advertising

Other companies signing up include Burger King, Danone, Ferrero, General Mills, Kellogg's, Kraft, PepsiCo and Unilever.

But Which? Chief Policy Advisor Sue Davies said: ‘It is encouraging that these food companies are recognising the need to curb their unhealthy marketing practices, but their pledge is too limited in scope - both in terms of the age of the children and types of promotions covered.

‘It covers children up to 12, while Ofcom has already recognised the need for restrictions to protect children up to 16 in the UK.  The group needs to redefine the scope of its criteria so that its measures cover the media that most children are actually using.’

Junk food

Which? is one of a number of organisations calling for a 9pm watershed for junk food ads.

Current restrictions – introduced in April 2007 – ban adverts for foods high in fat, salt or sugar from being shown in or around programmes aimed at or which appeal to the under-10s.

In January 2008 the current rules will be extended to programmes with a high proportion of viewers under the age of 16.

But Which? research in November revealed that just two of the top 20 programmes most watched by under-16s would be covered by the restrictions.