Pemra asked to draw up ad guidelines for food companies -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Pemra asked to draw up ad guidelines for food companies

ISLAMABAD, March 14: On the eve of the World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD), some civil society organisations have demanded of the Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to draw up advertisement guidelines for food marketing companies.

“Junk Food Generation” is the theme of this year’s WCRD being observed on Saturday.

Although PEMRA has drafted some guiding principle for the advertising companies and TV channels, there are no specific guidelines for advertising un-healthy and junk food for the children, says a statement of the Consumers Watch Pakistan (CWP). The organisation has asked the Ministry of Health and Pemra to sit together along with consumer groups and parents’ representatives to chalk a definite strategy for introducing guidelines for food marketing companies.

The idea is to instil Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and develop a set of recommendations for sale of fast food, beverages and confectioneries to children, the CWP says.

It has demanded implementation of strict regulations whereby school administration should be advised not to allow marketing of unhealthy food products on their premises and stop the entry of advertisement companies.

“Schools should be for imparting education alone,” the CWP stresses.

It has demanded of the food companies to realise their social responsibility and stop forthwith the marketing of unhealthy food to children.

According to the statistics compiled by Ad Age Group, in 2006 the biggest companies spent $7.8 billion on advertising food, $4 billion on advertising soft drinks and $1.1 billion on advertising confectionery.

This shows a worldwide trend of investing more and more money in children products as the rate of profit is immense. The volume and variety of marketing techniques has exploded as food companies seek new ways of bypassing parents and directly influencing children’s food choices. Even the schools have not been spared where multi-national food companies are increasingly using aggressive marketing techniques to vow younger generation.

Other familiar example of such marketing techniques include gifts for school administration, free toys, captivating advertisements through catchy jingles, playable and coloured food and even the use of celebrities to sell products.

Regrettably, most of the foods marketed directly to children are high in calories and low in nutrition and contain high level of fat, sugar and salt. These ingredients can have a direct effect on the health of the children and their performance in class room and at play-ground may deteriorate.

“These unhealthy eating habits may lead to childhood obesity which can in turn results into multiple health complications during adult age,” the CWP says.

A study conducted by the WHO revealed that more than 22 million children in the world under the age of five are already overweight and the trend continues.

Meanwhile, the international federation of consumer organisations, Consumers International (CI) with over 220 member organisations in 115 countries, which constitutes The Network for Consumer Protection, has called upon all its member countries to discourage the use of junk foods which, it says, taste good but are high in calories having little nutritional value.

This unhealthy diet is distinguished as a factor in obesity- related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

The Network, Islamabad has urged the media to play an important role in raising awareness about the long-term adverse effects of junk food consumption.

The organisation says it would be very keen on providing any sort of assistance and information regarding the consumption of junk foods and the international code to stop the marketing of unhealthy food to children.

How come 22 million children around the world are overweight before they start going to school, the organisation has asked.

The CI has also asked the World Health Organization (WHO) for an international code to ban the marketing of unhealthy food to children.

On Saturday, around the world CI member organisations will be uniting in an international day of action to highlight the damage done by junk food marketing and to urge government ministers to support the code ahead of the World Health Assembly (WHA) in May this year.
Source: Dawn