Broadcasting Bad Health: Why food marketing to children needs to be controlled

Researched and written by Sustain's Policy Director and the Director of the Food Commission, the Broadcasting Bad Health report was commissioned by the International Association of Consumer Food Organizations and prepared as submission to the 2003 World Health Organization consultation on a global strategy for diet and health. It makes the powerful case for controls on junk food marketing to children to prevent the alarming rise in diet-related diseases worldwide. Drawing on numerous international examples of food promotion by large food companies, and the accompanying growth in diet-related diseases, it gives a consumer perspective on the extensive marketing of energy-dense, low-nutrient foods around the world. It calls for internationally effective policies that protect children from developing dietary habits that may result in disease and premature death.


Broadcasting Bad Health: Why food marketing to children needs to be controlledResearched and written by Sustain's Policy Director Kath Dalmeny and the Director of the Food Commission Dr Tim Lobstein, the Broadcasting Bad Health report was commissioned by the International Association of Consumer Food Organizations and prepared as submission to the 2003 World Health Organization consultation on a global strategy for diet and health. It makes the powerful case for controls on junk food marketing to children to prevent the alarming rise in diet-related diseases worldwide.

Drawing on numerous international examples of food promotion by large food companies, and the accompanying growth in diet-related diseases, it gives a consumer perspective on the extensive marketing of energy-dense, low-nutrient foods around the world. The report calls for internationally effective policies that protect children from developing dietary habits that may result in disease and premature death.

As a western-style diet high in fats, sugars and salt is adopted in less-industrialised countries, western disease patterns are also emerging, threatening to undermine health gains made in the last 100 years. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes and childhood obesity rates are rising dramatically. More than 10% of the world’s children are overweight, rising to over 30% in many industrialised economies.

Treatment of these diseases is an expensive alternative to prevention. Less-industrialised countries lack the financial resources and infrastructure to implement effective treatment, especially as some countries are experiencing the triple burden of continuing problems of widespread undernourishment and infectious diseases as well as the emerging problem of overconsumption of damaging nutrients. Prevention of disease is essential, but requires a change in patterns of food supply and demand. Among other things, this will mean changes in marketing strategies and the promotion of health-enhancing foods.

Drawing on extensive examples of junk-food marketing by international food companies, this highly-illustrated report presents a picture of junk food marketing spreading its persuasive influence across the globe, and calls on governments to fight back in favour of good food and good health for all.

"Individual change is more likely to be facilitated and sustained if the macro-environment and micro-environment within which choices are made supports options perceived to be both healthy and rewarding... Unless there is an enabling context, the potential for change will be minimised."
WHO Technical report series 916 (2003) Diet, nutrition & the prevention of chronic diseases

Report contents

Section 1: Trends

  • Trends in diet and disease
  • Unhealthy food marketing:
  • The scale of the problem

Section 2: What companies do

  • Summary
  • The power of the brand
  • Case studies: fast food
  • Case studies: soft drinks
  • Schools, a captive market
  • New technologies
  • Skewing the science

Section 3: Voicing concerns

  • Consumer concerns about food marketing
  • Concerns about food marketing in Europe
  • Professional concerns about food marketing in North America
  • Grassroots action

Section 4: The industry

  • Can the industry reform?
  • Can self-regulation work?

Section 5: Interventions

  • Public-health interventions

End note


01/09/2003
Children's Food Campaign

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