The World Health Organisation (WHO) is to hold a conference for health ministers at the end of the month where it will urge them to sign up to an anti-obesity charter stating that children should not be “exploited” by food companies. The main policy aim is to ban advertising for unhealthy foods aimed at children and adolescents, the WHO says “Special attention needs to be focussed on vulnerable groups such as children and adolescents, whose credulity should not be exploited by commercial activities.”
Norway and Sweden have already put a TV ban into force and France imposes health warnings on any junk food ads. But the WHO points out that advertising on the internet and mobile phone text messaging is largely unregulated and must also be part of any new regulations.
It is well known that advertising companies use child psychologists to help manipulate the desires of the children beyond the influence of their parents. Financially it is very successful because it works. It is very subtle and starts as soon as kids can recognise images, and that really is a huge challenge for parents today. It is up to the governments of the world to ‘tip the balance’ away from junk food corporations in favour of responsible parents. It is not the first time in history that companies have exploited children for financial gain, think chimney sweeps and child labour.
Banning junk food advertising aimed at children is the first step in curbing the obesity problem that is developing all over the world. The problem is also seeding itself in parts of the world that is still developing such as Eastern Europe where for every $100 invested in fruit and vegetable productions, another $1000 is invested in soft drink and confectionary.
If you want to know what a society that doesn’t have corporate junk food pushed down its neck looks like then Cuba is a perfect example. Cuba was subject to a United States embargo that banned all US companies from selling products in or to Cuba, this included food and medicines. This meant the fast food industry didn’t establish itself and Cuba had to look for its own ways of developing a food industry. The result is a society that eats food as nature intended, with little or no factory manufacturing. But the real measure of this lack of junk food is the fact that Cuba has a life expectancy rate that is higher than many western developed nations.
The WHO conference takes place on Nov. 15 in Istanbul and will be attended by ministers from over 50 countries.