Food Minister Cem Özdemir wants to legally restrict advertising of foods with too much sugar, fat and salt to children. Accordingly, such advertising should be banned from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. if it can also be seen regularly by children.
According to Federal Food Minister Cem Özdemir, children should no longer see advertising for unhealthy foods in the future. The Greens proposed a sweeping ban on junk food advertising aimed at children on Monday. It should apply to television and radio broadcasts and online networks such as YouTube from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Experts praised the plans, the FDP announced resistance.
Voluntary commitments by the advertising industry had led to nothing, Özdemir said in Berlin. That’s why strict rules are needed now. At the same time, he emphasized that he was not demanding a “general advertising ban”. “But the advertising must no longer be aimed specifically at children.”
However, the definition of “advertising aimed at children” is broad: it is sufficient if “it is consciously accepted that it is regularly noticed or can be noticed by children in particular,” said the minister. And it has been proven that children watch television between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. or surf the Internet.
Adolescent doctors have been demanding regulation for years
In addition, according to Özdemir, advertisements in press products are subject to the ban if they are obviously aimed at children. Outdoor advertising for sweets and the like should no longer be possible in the vicinity of schools and other facilities such as swimming pools. New requirements are also planned for sponsorship, for example in club sports. For the definition of unhealthy foods, Özdemir wants to follow the guidelines of the World Health Organization.
Ursula Felderhoff-Müser, Vice-President of the German Society for Child and Adolescent Medicine, praised the plans: Paediatricians, scientific societies and consumer organizations have been calling for such a regulation for years, because the effectiveness of advertising aimed at children well documented.
The German Obesity Society said Özdemir had “made a big hit”. Childhood obesity is a major health problem and unhealthy advertising is a key factor. The German Alliance for Non-Communicable Diseases (DANK), Foodwatch, the Federation of German Consumer Organizations and the WWF all spoke of a “milestone” in the fight against obesity and for children’s health.
Advertising ban for junk food: criticism from the FDP and CDU
Scientific studies have shown that many of the most popular shows among children under the age of 14 are not cartoons, but rather family shows and football broadcasts, explained DANK spokeswoman Barbara Bitzer. “A light advertising restriction that only applies to classic children’s programs would be doomed to fail.” She appealed to the coalition partners SPD and FDP to “support this scientifically correct and important proposal by the minister”.
Özdemir said he would now initiate the departmental vote and was definitely expecting “resistance”. The agricultural policy spokesman for the FDP parliamentary group, Gero Hocker, immediately announced that the Green politician would “not find a majority” within the traffic light. Özdemir is apparently pursuing the goal of “making every underage child into an underage citizen”.
SPD leader Saskia Esken was initially reluctant. Advertisements shouldn’t be “misleading” about the health effects of advertised products, she said. But “protecting children from unhealthy foods, I think it’s still up to parents to do that.”
Union faction deputy Steffen Bilger (CDU) criticized in the “Rheinische Post”: “Özdemir paves the way for dirigisme, bureaucracy and state paternalism.” How the minister wants to pinpoint the products that he considers harmful “remains just as open as the question of how he wants to determine which advertising is clearly aimed at children”. It is “completely unclear” whether advertising bans will do anything at all in the fight against obesity.
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