WHO issues guidelines for protecting children from unhealthy food marketing

WHO issued new guidelines to protect children from unhealthy marketing of food and non-alcoholic beverages high in saturated fatty acids, trans-fatty acids, free sugars and/or salt (HFSS)

Tedros, WHO

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (Photo: Reuters)

Sudeep Singh Rawat New Delhi

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued guidelines on policies protecting children from the harmful impact of unhealthy food.

WHO urges countries to implement comprehensive mandatory guidelines to protect children of all ages from the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages high in saturated fatty acids, trans-fatty acids, free sugars and/or salt (HFSS).

WHO recommendations are based on recent evidence, including how food marketing negatively impacts children's health, eating behaviour, and other food-related attitudes and beliefs. 

Policies to Restrict Food Marketing

It is also very significant to restrict the power of food marketing to persuade, which involves the use of cartoons and techniques that are appealing to children. The policies restricting food marketing are most effective if they are:
  • Mandatory to implement
  • Protecting children of all ages
  • Classify foods to be restricted from marketing based on the government-led nutrient profile model
  • Sufficiently comprehensive to minimise the risk of migration of marketing to other age groups.
Dr Francesco Branca, Director of the Department of Nutrition and Food Safety at WHO believes that aggressive and persuasive marketing of food and beverages containing high HFSS is responsible for unhealthy dietary choices.

"Calls to responsible marketing practices have not had a meaningful impact. Governments should establish strong and comprehensive regulations,” Dr Francesco added.

The WHO emphasises adapting guidelines to the local contexts of WHO regions and member states. Local consultations are mandatory for the adoption of recommendations and adaptation to the country's context, protecting public health policy-making from undue influence by real, perceived or potential conflicts of interest.

The policies of WHO protect children from the harmful impact of food marketing and implement a comprehensive policy approach to enable a supportive food environment.

The WHO guidelines assist governments in developing a healthy food environment and facilitating healthy dietary decisions, establishing lifelong healthy eating habits, improving dietary quality and decreasing the risk of noncommunicable diseases worldwide.

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First Published: Jul 05 2023 | 11:11 AM IST

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