19 February 2009

Voluntary Standards Not Enough to Protect Kids from Unhealthy Foods

Quezon City. A voluntary certification program is not enough to combat non-communicable diseases among children and ensure their right to safe and healthy food products.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an advocate for human and ecological health, aired this view following an announcement by the Department of Health of its plan to come up with a non-compulsory nutritional standards for fastfood staples such as hamburgers, fried chicken and French fries.

The DOH through the National Center for Disease Prevention and Control announced the said plan last Monday in a bid to sway fastfood restaurants into offering healthy menus.

“While we appreciate the intent, we find the proposed scheme inadequate to protect children from obesity and other chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer,” commented retired nurse Elsie Brandes-De Veyra of the Concerned Citizens Against Pollution and the EcoWaste Coalition.

“What we really need are more stringent steps – not voluntary measures - to halt the aggressive promotion of high calorie and nutrient-weak foods and beverages to helpless children,” De Veyra added. “We doubt if a voluntary scheme will be enough to push all food companies to stop marketing and selling unhealthy foods and drinks to children.”

For her part, Baby Reyes of the Mother Earth Foundation and the EcoWaste Coalition stressed the strategic value of targeting educational institutions - not just fastfood chains - and making it obligatory for both private and public schools to comply with nutritional standards for foods served in their premises.

“Mandatory and not voluntary nutritional standards for foods sold in school cafeterias will have a tremendous positive effect in educating our kids to eat healthy, not junk foods,” Reyes said.

The EcoWaste Coalition echoed the recommendation by World Health Organization (WHO) experts who say that “the goal of any regulatory action should be to protect children from marketing which adversely affects their diets by substantially reducing the volume and impact of commercial promotion of energy-dense, micronutrient-poor food and beverages to children.”

The EcoWaste Coalition urged the DOH to support the ongoing effort of Consumers International (CI) and the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) to produce a model code on the marketing of food and drink to children.

The consumer-led campaign is lobbying the WHO and the governments worldwide to adopt an “International Code on Marketing of Foods and Non-Alcoholic Beverages to Children.”

Some of the steps being proposed by CI and the IOTF to regulate the promotion of foods high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) to children include a ban on radio or TV advertising of HFSS foods, a ban on the marketing of HFSS foods on new media, a ban on the promotion of HFSS foods in schools, a ban on the advertising of HFSS foods targeting parents or carers, and a ban on the use of celebrities, cartoon characters, competitions or free gifts to endorse and market HFSS foods.

Data from IOTF indicate that one in 10 children worldwide – or a total of about 155 million - are overweight and that some 30 to 40 million of these children are actually obese.

A study conducted in 2003 by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute shows that one percent of Filipino children age 1-10 and three percent of adolescents age 11-17 were categorized as overweight.

Inactive lifestyle and the excessive intake of foods high in fat, sugar and salt are recognized factors for the rising number of overweight and obese children in the Philippines and elsewhere.

EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 320, Eagle Court Condominium, Matalino St.
Quezon City, Philippines
+63 2 9290376
ecowastecoalition@yahoo.com

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