13 September 2011

Group Backs Monitoring of Food Marketing to Children to Curb Childhood Obesity

A group supportive of the government’s drive for healthy and nutritious school foods welcomed a global initiative to monitor food marketing to children amid rising incidence of childhood obesity in the country.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental group promoting children’s health and safety, lauded Consumers International (CI), a worldwide federation of consumer groups, for coming up with a manual that can assist policy makers and citizens in collecting evidence on the marketing of unhealthy foods to kids.

The “Manual for Monitoring Food Marketing to Children” seeks to expose the multi-billion dollar promotion of products that are high in fat, sugar or salt to children by the food and beverage industry.

The manual provides clear advice on how to set standard definitions of marketing to children, including the classification of unhealthy foods and beverages, as well as how to conduct the analysis and interpret the collected data. It details the range of marketing techniques to help researchers identify subtle, as well as conspicuous promotions.

“We welcome the timely release of this monitoring tool that can help the authorities in crafting a policy to halt the unethical promotion of unhealthy foods and beverages to children, which can lead to obesity and to serious ailments such as diabetes and heart disease later in life,” said Dr. Leah Primitiva Samaco-Paquiz, a university educator and Vice-President of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“Companies invest millions in promoting their unhealthy products to children, using traditional advertising and a range of more subtle techniques online and in schools. This manual is a small, but significant, step in exposing the junk food industry’s efforts to influence our children’s dietary choices,” said Helen McCallum, Acting Director General of CI.

The manual was launched Monday in London ahead of the UN high-level summit on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in New York on September 19-20, 2011.

“As health ministers gather ahead of the UN summit in New York, we call on governments and civil society organisations to use this manual to help inform health policies that can have a real impact on the rising levels of obesity,” the UK-based official of CI said in a statement.

The said summit will highlight the current lack of concerted action to tackle the shocking levels of obesity worldwide, and the impact this has on rates of critical illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes.

According to WHO, the prevalence rate of obesity in the Philippines has been increasing through the years with more than three million children classified as “overweight obese.”

“Overweight and obesity are now impending health crises” in the country, wrote the Nutritionist-Dietitians’ Association of the Philippines in their website.

Globally, there are an estimated 170 million school-aged children overweight or obese, while 43 million pre-school children already carry excess body fat.

At the 63rd World Health Assembly (WHA) held in May 2010, governments adopted a “set of recommendations on the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children.”

The WHO Recommendations urge member states to implement policies with the aim “to reduce the impact of marketing of foods high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars, or salt to children” by addressing the dimensions of ‘exposure’ and ‘power’ of marketing of foods to children.

In January this year, Education Secretary Armin Luistro expressed his support to a WHO recommendation to ban junk foods in schools and playgrounds to promote healthy diet and curb obesity among school-aged kids.

The EcoWaste Coalition had earlier urged DepEd to go further by embarking on a holistic program that will promote a healthy school community that is conducive to well-rounded and well-balanced learning and development.

-end-

To read the full CI press release, please see:
http://www.consumersinternational.org/news-and-media/press-releases/2011/09/food-manual-launch

To read the CI manual, please see:
http://www.consumersinternational.org/foodmanual

To see the article on obesity by the Nutritionist-Dietitians’ Association of the Philippines, please see:
http://www.ndap.org.ph/feeding-right-help-your-obese-child

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