Lawmakers in Germany have proposed tightening regulations on junk-food advertising “to protect children’s health”.
Adverts aimed at under 14s for food and drinks containing “too much” sugar, salt or fat should be banned, the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) said.
Suggestions include banning junk-food adverts between 6am and 11pm across social media, outdoor and television marketing.
Food and Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir said the proposals have the backing of a “broad social alliance” which “emphatically demands comprehensive regulation”.
However, the German Food Association said it “sharply rejects” the government’s claims food companies are profiteering from “ruining children’s health”.
It criticised the definition of what would be banned, claiming it was unclear and could encompass 70% of food product adverts.
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It also argued there are “no reliable scientific studies on the effectiveness of advertising restrictions on overall nutrition and the development of childhood obesity”.
Christoph Minhoff, the German Food Association’s general manager, said: “Many stakeholders have a duty to create a healthy environment for children. In addition to offering and providing information about a balanced diet, a healthy lifestyle primarily includes promoting exercise.”
In 2021, Germany tightened guidelines on food advertising aimed at children, raising the target age of “protection” from 12 to 14. German states were responsible for implementing these rules. Ministers have since called for even stricter rules on several occasions.
In a press conference yesterday, Özdemir said voluntary commitments by the advertising industry have not made a significant enough impact.
The BMEL estimates children in Germany who use the media see 15 junk-food commercials a day on average.
The proposed ban would include adverts featuring children actors and packaging targeted towards children. It limits the placement of adverts within 100 metres of schools, on social media or on television adjacent to children’s or family programmes.
The types of food considered too unhealthy would be defined using the World Health Organisation’s nutrient profile model, which classifies processed and ultra-processed food and drinks.
Özdemir said: “Children are the most valuable thing we have – protecting them is a task for society as a whole and also the responsibility of the state. In addition to sufficient exercise and appropriate offers, a diet that is as healthy as possible is required, for which clear rules are essential.
“In childhood, the foundations are laid for later life. Childhood often decides on the opportunities in adult life. We have the backing of a broad social alliance from science and doctors to health insurance companies and parents’ representatives, who emphatically demand comprehensive regulation.
“A large majority of the population approves of our plans. Advertisers can continue to advertise to children for foods that do not have too high a sugar, fat or salt content. And that is exactly where the trend should go: less is more. We rely on the willingness of the food industry to accept recipes to improve.”
It follows a similar attempt by the UK government to introduce a junk-food advertising ban to tackle childhood obesity. The proposed bill has hit several walls as the government delays its decision.