20 September 2022

Obesity is a major health problem as it affects half of the European population. Providing calories with little nutritional value, free sugars are therefore linked to weight gain and its associated health risks. In this digital age, screen time and social media usage in children and adolescents has and continues to increase, exposing them to targeted advertisement. Nonetheless, there is very limited data on the digital life of children. Programmatic digital media targets individuals with ad impressions based on their age, gender, location and interests. Thus, young minds can easily be targeted and influenced by industries. Notably, advertisement for High Fat, Salt and Sugar (HFSS) products. In a recent report “Monitoring and Restricting Digital Marketing of Unhealthy Products to Children and Adolescents” (June 2018) WHO Europe indicated that more needs to be done to monitor and limit digital marketing of HFSS and other unhealthy products to children.

SAFE agrees and support WHO’s statements. Indeed, exposing children to targeted online advertisement contributes to the development of obesity. If the EU wants to tackle childhood obesity, all risk factors need to be addressed. It is essential that national and European policy makers ban all High Fat, Salt and Sugar (HFSS) products advertisements targeting young minds.

SAFE also welcomes the EP’s move to protect the EU’s most  vulnerable  consumers  by lowering  excessively  high  sugar  levels  in baby   foods.  A   report   by   the   WHO’s Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity released on 25 January 2016,  exposes distressing   trends   in   obesity   among children  aged  under  five  years.  Almost forty one million children in this age group  are  obese  or  overweight worldwide.   Considering   the   growing evidence   on   the   links   between   child feeding in the early stages of life  and childhood obesity and obesity and chronic diseases  health  outcomes  in  adulthood, the  draft  regulations’  sugar  intake  level for  baby  foods,  as  three  times  above  the recommendations   from   the   WHO   was unacceptable.  SAFE supports the results of the vote  on  processed  cereal  based baby  foods  and  we  urge  the  EC  to  adopt draft   rules   in   line   with   the   WHO’s recommendations   to   ensure   the   EU’s youngest  consumers  are  provided  with safe nutritious and adequate diets.

Further, SAFE’s Sugar Project, first implemented in Belgium with the Campaign “Désucrez-vous! Du sucre oui, mais pas trop” (= “Unsugar yourself! Sugar of course, but not too much”), before being extended to other EU Member States. Read more about SAFE’s Sugar Project here.