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Junk food: children are targeted by “aggressive food marketing”, denounces Foodwatch

Their packaging is attractive, their advertising campaigns are fun.

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Junk food: children are targeted by “aggressive food marketing”, denounces Foodwatch

Their packaging is attractive, their advertising campaigns are fun. However, these products are bad for children's health. A paradox denounced by Foodwatch. Sweets, cakes, drinks, yogurts, cereals... In a survey published this Wednesday, the consumer defense association is sounding the alarm, estimating that the youngest remain "overexposed to aggressive food marketing and advertising , which encourage them to consume” these types of products. Enough to lead to “the adoption of eating habits that are bad for their health”.

During its investigation, the organization screened 228 drinks and foods targeting children and adolescents in their marketing. The verdict is clear: almost the majority of products do not meet the nutritional criteria set by the World Health Organization (WHO). The food industries have more than one trick up their sleeve to encourage children to consume these products related to “junk food”. “Children are bludgeoned with advertising and marketing campaigns orchestrated by the food industry and mass distribution to sell ever more,” accuses Foodwatch.

Packaging featuring children's mascots, attractive sensory properties (taste, shape, color), gifts offered for purchase (toys or figurines), commercial operations in partnership with influencers, stars or athletes known to children, etc. If these product characteristics can leave an adult cold, the same is not true for minors. “Children lack the critical perspective necessary to distinguish informative content from commercial content and therefore become a prime target for corporate profit,” argues Foodwatch.

Nestlé, Ferrero, Mars, McDonald's, Burger King, Danone... The association does not hesitate to cite the food industry giants responsible for these questionable sales techniques. Three advertising campaigns in particular caught the attention of Foodwatch. Firstly, an advertisement for Oasis Tropical, a drink popular with children but excessively sweet, featuring the rapper Jul. Second, a marketing campaign from the Monster Munch brand targeting the world of gaming, a popular space among teenagers. Finally, the Pitch brand (Pasquier), which offers play areas on French beaches.

For Foodwatch, the impact of these commercial strategies on the public health of young French people is alarming. “1 in 6 children are overweight or obese in France,” recalls the association. According to her, the measures taken so far - the famous health messages integrated into advertisements broadcast on television, for example - are insufficient. Likewise, Foodwatch severely sanctions the EU Pledge, the European charter born in 2007 from the “voluntary” commitments of the giants of the sector. The companies in question (Unilever, Bel, Pepisco, etc.) have promised to no longer advertise to children under 13, except for products that meet the nutritional criteria of the “White Book” that they have. -designed. However, the nutritional criteria set by these “White Papers” are far from being as restrictive as the red lines established by the WHO.

“While only 2 in 10 breakfast cereals were deemed sufficiently balanced to be marketed to children with the WHO model, more than 60% met the nutritional criteria of the EU Pledge” , notes, for example, the association. This therefore calls on public authorities to prohibit “the marketing of products intended for children”, which do not meet the nutritional criteria of the WHO model. “It is urgent that the government and legislators strictly regulate the advertising of products targeting children and stop hiding behind the voluntary commitments of the industry and the so-called accountability of junk food giants,” criticizes the organization.

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