Marketing and advertising of unhealthy foods to children should be banned, according to representatives of the Swedish Cancer Society, the Swedish Heart and Lung Foundation, Swedish Consumers and UNICEF Sweden. This could help prevent future illnesses.
Statistics from the organization Generation Pep show that only three percent of children in Sweden follow the dietary guidelines recommended by the Swedish National Food Administration, according to the authors. They also note that overweight and obesity affect about one in four children of primary school age.
“The supply of unhealthy food has increased dramatically. At the same time, we – children and adults alike – see advertising for unhealthy foods everywhere. According to surveys by UNICEF Sweden and the Swedish Heart and Lung Foundation, about 80 percent of outdoor food advertising is for unhealthy foods”, the authors write in a debate article in the Schibsted newspaper SvD.
They go on to point out that while parents have a “general responsibility”, it is the state that has an obligation “to ensure that effective regulations protect children from the marketing of foods that are high in energy and low in nutrition”.
“Children have different capacities to critically examine advertising and therefore the state has a responsibility to regulate marketing. Today, the state is not doing this”, they write.
Current legislation not enough
There is currently a law that bans advertising to children up to the age of 12, but it only applies to radio and television. For example, children are still exposed to a variety of ads on social media, product placements, billboards and at sporting events. The authors argue that the law should be updated to reflect the “original intent of the legislature”.
At the end of January, the Swedish National Board of Health and the National Food Agency will propose targets for sustainable and healthy food consumption to the government. The MEPs urge the government to adopt these targets and to consider a total ban on unhealthy food advertising aimed at children and young people.
“If children and young people are to grow up healthy, there is only one sensible way forward: to ban the advertising of unhealthy foods that children and young people are exposed to.”
In London, junk food advertising on public transport was banned in 2019. At the end of last year, Australia’s largest state, New South Wales, was also considering a ban on all fast food advertising on public transport.