Unhealthy diets are a leading factor affecting health and well-being in every European country, with rising overweight and obesity among children of particular concern as it affects up to 27% of 13-year-olds and 33% of 11-year-olds. The leading categories of advertised foods are soft drinks, sweetened breakfast cereals, biscuits, confectionery, snack foods, ready meals and fast food. Brand recognition starts in early childhood and children who recognize multiple brands by the age of 4 years are more likely to eat unhealthily and be overweight.

Research has demonstrated that overweight children in particular respond to the presence of branded food packaging by increasing their consumption. Marketing of foods high in energy, fats, sugars or salt has a documented harmful impact on children as it promotes the development of unhealthy food preferences and diets, and childhood obesity, thus contributing to the later development of diet-related non-communicable diseases. Yet across Europe, children are still regularly exposed to marketing that promotes foods and drinks high in energy, saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars or salt.

Despite progress in some countries, it can be difficult for governments to identify foods whose marketing should be restricted, so WHO has developed a nutrient profile model for countries to adapt and use to classify foods according to their nutritional composition. Policy-makers across the Region will be able to use this tool to determine whether or not a food product should be marketed to children. The WHO model is largely based on the Danish and Norwegian models, which are used to restrict food marketing to children and countries can either use the model as it is, or adapt it to their own cultural circumstances. It can be used in two ways:

  • to identify foods not to be marketed to children
  • to monitor the extent and nature of food marketing.

For more information on the WHO nutrient profile model, click here   on www.euro.who.int

For more information on the European Food and Nutrition Action Plan 2015-2020, click here on www.euro.who.int