The topic of advertising of unhealthy foodstuffs to children,
and its contribution to obesity and disease amongst the target
audience, has been an ongoing debate for years. According to
studies, one of the four main risk factors for non-communicable
diseases is an unhealthy diet.
In a bold move in May 2010, the 63rd World Health Assembly (WHA)
endorsed a set of recommendations to limit children's exposure
to the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages, with
particular emphasis on foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt
and low in nutritional value. Hot on the heels of the WHA, South
Africa implemented an "Integration Nutrition Strategy"
which is designed to address nutrition in South Africa, and in a
clear attempt to limit children's exposure to the marketing of
foods and non-alcoholic beverages, the Department of Health has
proposed new regulations relating to the labelling of
Currently in South Africa, the concept of attracting the
attention of children to confectionery, non-alcoholic beverages and
fast food is synonymous with the use of cartoon characters, famous
movie characters and toy giveaways, which is aimed at selling those
foodstuffs to children, or convincing parents to make the purchase.
One only has to glance down the aisle of a grocery store to notice
which foodstuffs are being marketed to children and which are being
marketed to adults. Of course, the colourful, cartoon inspired
packaging is almost always a sugary, energy dense and nutrient-low
treat. Almost always, this clever marketing works, as children
associate their favourite sugary cereal or fruit drink with a
particular cartoon character, and beware, Mom or Dad, if you come
home with a product that does not bear the much-loved
In May 2014, the Department of Health published for comment,
draft regulations relating to the labelling of foodstuffs
(R429) that will see a severe clamp down on the
use of our favourite meal-time characters in the advertising of
unhealthy foodstuffs to children. In an attempt to define what an
unhealthy foodstuff is, Guideline 14 of
R429 defines an unhealthy foodstuff is an energy
dense, nutrient poor food and/or non-alcoholic beverage, which is
high in fat, sugar or salt. By definition, almost all non-alcoholic
beverages, confectionery and "fast food" will fall within
the ambit of R429. This has manufacturers up in
arms, while some parents and health organisations are welcoming the
move by the Department of Health.
In effect, R429 and Guideline
14 prohibits the commercial marketing of unhealthy
foodstuffs (as defined above) to any children under 18, through
advertising (which includes product packaging, print media,
in-school marketing, outdoor advertising), cross promotions (in
which manufacturers link unhealthy foodstuffs with popular
children's movies) and television program sponsorships.
Guideline 14 goes further to prohibit the
commercial marketing to children that incorporates celebrities,
cartoon-type characters, puppets, computer animations or any
Manufacturers are concerned, and advertising agencies are
perplexed, as the new restrictions will severely affect briefs to
advertising agencies when manufacturers launch or rebrand their,
supposedly, unhealthy foodstuffs in South Africa.
Interested parties had until 29 August 2014 to comment on the
draft regulations. Over and above the obvious restrictions,
manufacturers are focusing their attention on the irrationality
and, perhaps, unlawfulness of the draft regulations, to the extent
that they deprive manufacturers of their rights to use, for
instance, cartoon characters that are registered trademarks in
South Africa. Arguments have been put forward to the Department of
Health that the new law is unconstitutional. It appears that there
is an attempt by the Department of Health to have the draft
regulations in place as soon as possible. However, it remains to be
seen whether or not this will materialise, as numerous
manufacturers and bodies, including overseas entities, have made
submissions to the Department of Health regarding the validity of
R429. It is clear that the extent of the effect of
R429 will not only be felt by South African
manufacturers, but by international companies, who have business
interests in South Africa.
While we wait for the Department of Health's next move,
manufacturers and advertisers alike, may wish to put their thinking
caps on, as the advertising of foodstuffs to children is about to
get much more challenging!
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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Earlier this summer, the Health Authority – Abu Dhabi (HAAD) announced changes to two of its main health insurance programs, the 'Thiqa' plan and the Abu Dhabi Basic Plan.
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