Federal Food Minister Cem Özdemir was belligerent: "I don't think it's a good way to make money by ruining our children's health," he said on Monday. At short notice, the Green politician had invited to present his plan for advertising bans on sweet, fat and salty foods. His long-awaited goal: to protect children from advertising for unhealthy foods.
The scope of the planned law goes beyond the rules in Great Britain, which is the first European country to ban such advertising. For example, Özdemir wants to completely ban television advertising for food that does not meet the requirements of the World Health Organization (WHO) between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. Children's advertising for unhealthy foods in magazines, the Internet, social media and even in influencer videos should also be banned. However, according to Özdemir, his initiative has not yet been agreed in the traffic light coalition.
A coalition dispute is brewing over the proposed legislation. "Blanket bans on advertising, which are supposed to shield children, ignore the real core problems of unhealthy nutrition and are only the second-best solution at best. There is no majority for such a policy, ”said the deputy FDP parliamentary group leader Carina Konrad WELT. Instead, she called for more nutrition coaches in schools, seminars on media skills for children and parents, and more commitment from producers and supermarkets.
The topic is charged for both coalition partners: while the Greens have been calling for advertising restrictions for a long time, Berlin industry lobbyists from the brand industry and advertising industry have seen the Liberals as a bulwark against such restrictions for years. Even in the fight against advertising bans for tobacco vaporizers, the associations had hoped for the support of the Liberals, who remained in opposition at the time.
FDP politician Konrad now criticizes the criteria chosen by Özdemir. "When it comes to classifying foods as healthy and unhealthy, the WHO limit values cannot be implemented in practice for good reason and have therefore not found their way into the coalition agreement. These turn out to be unworldly, because not even a glass of milk, a fresh raisin roll or certain fruit juices should be advertised in this way.” She called for more intelligent and sensible approaches to be chosen that do not negate the appreciation of many agricultural products.
Özdemir already anticipated such criticism on Monday. The WHO criteria are internationally recognized, he said when presenting his plan. "I'm anything but a ban fanatic," he claimed. He is not planning a general advertising ban for chips and chocolate. Instead, it is about protecting children and relieving parents. "It's perfectly clear to me that I have to reckon with a headwind - I can take it," said Özdemir.
Just a few weeks ago, another attempt by Özdemir failed due to resistance in the coalition: According to WELT information, the VAT reduction for plant-based foods repeatedly proposed by Özdemir disappeared from the key issues paper for the government's nutrition strategy in the departmental coordination with the FDP-led Ministry of Finance. The paper was prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture.
This time Özdemir encountered the expected resistance from industry. The lobbyists warn that the WHO criteria are so strict that 70 to 80 percent of food can no longer be advertised for children. The German food association, for example, said that it was an almost complete advertising ban if television advertising was limited to the night.
In addition, the statement that the industry is ruining children's health is wrong. "Such a malicious statement, which defames an entire industry that employs more than five million people and supplies the population every day, is not worthy of a federal minister. This also gives Cem Özdemir a frightening testimony about his attitude to basic values and the foundations of a social market economy," criticized the association's managing director Christoph Minhoff.
The advertising association ZAW warned of the consequences of the planned advertising ban in the sports environment: "The unsuitable ban policy accepts that the refinancing of media and sports is largely damaged and that competition, including the market success of innovations, is eliminated."
The consumer lobby Foodwatch, on the other hand, welcomed Özdemir's plans. "Now it is important that the law is not watered down within the traffic light coalition - especially by the coalition partner FDP - and that child protection is enforced against the interests of the advertising industry and the junk food industry," said Foodwatch campaigner Luise Molling.
The opposition Union faction is hoping for the opposite. She positions herself against the project. Food politician Christina Stumpp (CDU) warned that according to Özdemir's plan, foods such as tomato ketchup, packaged bread or a variety of dairy products should no longer be advertised on evening family programs or sports broadcasts. The minister has thus joined maximum demands.
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