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Marketing of food, non-alcoholic, and alcoholic beverages. A toolkit to support the development and update of codes of conduct.

Abstract: 

Public health policy makers have identified the restriction of marketing of foods, non-alcoholic, and/or alcoholic beverages that promote unhealthy diets and practices to children and adolescents as an area of urgent action. This is backed by international reference organisations such as the World Health Organization, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and UNICEF. Marketing codes of conduct, either generic marketing codes or specific to foods, non-alcoholic, and/or alcoholic beverages, are normally used to address such practices. At EU level, the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) has recently been revised; the Directive applies to all services with audiovisual content and it governs EU-wide coordination of national legislation on several areas, including commercial communications and protection of minors. The AVMSD calls for effectively reducing the exposure of children to audiovisual commercial communications of foods and beverages that are high in salt, sugars, fat, saturated fats or trans-fatty acids or that otherwise do not fit national or international nutritional guidelines. Similarly, it calls for effectively reducing the exposure of children and minors to audiovisual commercial communications of alcoholic beverages. EU Member States should attain such reductions, using tools that work, including codes of conduct. Furthermore, the AVMSD protects consumers and especially minors regarding the processing of their personal data, stating that such personal data should not be used for commercial purposes. For both these major reasons, its transposition at national level is seen as an opportunity to expand, re-inforce or introduce effective measures to reduce food, non-alcoholic, and alcoholic beverages marketing pressure to children and adolescents. This toolkit aims to contribute to strengthening the expertise of EU Member States in this area. It is based on a thorough analysis of statutory, co- and self-regulatory marketing codes that are in place in the EU and beyond. The following aspects were examined: general characteristics, scope, target audience, addressed marketing techniques, included measures, as well as information on implementation, monitoring and evaluation. The development of the toolkit has benefited from valuable comments of national experts from EU Member States on nutrition and physical activity and on alcohol, as well as thoughtful discussion and feedback from a group of top international experts in the area of marketing consulted during a dedicated workshop organised by the JRC in May 2018. The toolkit comprises a checklist of the main aspects that a marketing code should include. This will be useful both when initiating the policy-making process and when updating existing codes. Practical guidance is then provided for each of the aspects incorporated in the checklist. This guidance is given in the form of an inventory of specific actions extracted and adapted from existing marketing codes for food and beverages, including alcoholic beverages, and that can inspire future codes. The toolkit also addresses current challenges with regard to digital marketing and offers some insights on potential solutions. The EU Member States can use the checklist and the practical guidance to update their codes for restricting marketing of food, non-alcoholic, and alcoholic beverages or introduce new ones. This toolkit ultimately aims to protect consumers, especially children and minors, in the EU from the effects of the marketing of such products.