Malnutrition in children and adolescents is widespread. A recent study shows that the food industry's voluntary self-regulation of marketing to children has failed - almost all products are unhealthy for children.
data of Robert Koch Institute are clear: on average, children between the ages of six and eleven eat less than half as much fruit and vegetables, but more than twice as much sweets or snacks as recommended. Currently, around 15 percent of children and adolescents are considered overweight and six percent are even obese - they are at risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, joint problems, high blood pressure and heart disease later in life. According to the OECD, about every fifth death in Germany is due to an unhealthy cause Nutrition to lead back.
One reason: The food industry's voluntary commitments with regard to children's marketing are insufficient.
This is the result of a market study conducted by the consumer organization foodwatch together with the German Alliance for Non-Communicable Diseases (DANK) recently presented. Accordingly, 242 of 283 children's products examined (85,5 percent) still contain too much sugar, fat or salt. According to World Health Organization (WHO) criteria, they are unbalanced and should not even be marketed to children.
The study includes products from a total of 16 food companies that have signed a voluntary commitment to more responsible children's marketing ("EU Pledge") - including Nestlé, Danone and Unilever. foodwatch examined the range of these companies back in 2015 - with similar results: At that time, 89,7 percent of the products failed to meet the WHO recommendations.
“Products advertised with cartoon characters, online sweepstakes and toy giveaways to children are primarily candy bombs and greasy snacks. Neither the voluntary commitment to more responsible children's marketing nor the (German) federal government's sugar reduction program have changed that," explained Oliver Huizinga, campaign director at foodwatch.
“Malnutrition is already widespread in childhood: young people eat far too little fruit and vegetables and too many sweets and snacks. Advertising for food has harmful effects on the eating behavior of children and young people and promotes the development of obesity,” explains Prof. Berthold Koletzko, Chairman of the Children's Health Foundation at the Children's Hospital of the University of Munich.
"Advertising for fatteners aimed at children is not a trivial offense, but a risk to children's health," warned Barbara Bitzer, Managing Director of the German Diabetes Society (DDG) and spokeswoman for the German Alliance for Non-Communicable Diseases (DANK), an association of 23 scientific and medical specialist societies, associations and research institutions. "The federal government must abandon the voluntary strategy and legally ban the advertising of unhealthy products to children."
Background: In the fight against malnutrition, the political focus has so far been on voluntary agreements between industry. As early as 2007, the large food companies in Europe made a voluntary agreement with the "EU Pledge" to make their food advertising more responsible and to no longer market junk food to under-12s. The authors of the study examined all products advertised to children by companies that have signed the "EU Pledge". In doing so, they compared the nutrient composition of the products with the requirements of the World Health Organization for nutritionally balanced foods.
The WHO Regional Office for Europe defines specific guidelines according to which only nutritionally balanced products should be marketed to children. Among other things, the proportions of fat, sugar and salt, but also the calorie content or added sweeteners play a role. 10 of the 16 manufacturers examined only market products to children that do not comply with WHO recommendations. Among them are Ferrero, Pepsico, Mars, Unilever and Coca-Cola. The largest number of unbalanced products are advertised by Nestlé (44 products), Kellogg's (24 products) and Ferrero (23 products).