The WHO European Action Network on reducing marketing pressure on children consists of countries in the WHO European Region having a joint interest in finding ways to reduce the marketing pressure of high salt, energy-dense, micronutrient-poor foods and beverages towards children.
There are currently 28 countries in the WHO European Region participating in the network. In addition, several organizations and institutions take part in the network as observers.
This website was established in April 2008 in order to communicate information about activities and plans in the WHO European Action Network on reducing marketing pressure on children. The website will not be updated, and the Portugese secretariate is setting up a new one.
Since 2004, several WHO documents highlighted the need for action in the area of food marketing towards children. International action is essential to ensure an effective reduction in marketing directed towards children. Efforts to reduce marketing pressure of unhealthy food to children are still high on the international agenda, and included in important documents on non-communicable diseases (NCD).
The establishment of a European Network on reducing marketing pressure on children in 2008 reflected the joint interest of several countries in the WHO European Region to follow up the recommendation for action as spelled out in these documents. The network was established in close cooperation with the WHO Regional Office for Europe. Norway took on the responsibility to lead and facilitate the network.
Increasing levels of childhood obesity and high burden of non-communicable diseases urge the need for broad-based preventive efforts. One important measure is to reduce the marketing pressure towards children; especially the marketing of energy-dense, micronutrient-poor foods and beverages. The marketing of energy-dense micronutrient-poor foods and beverages to children has been identified as one of the many factors contributing to this.
Systematic reviews on the extent, nature and effects of food marketing to children conclude that advertising is extensive and other forms of food marketing to children are widespread across the world (who.int). The food products promoted represent a very undesirable dietary profile, with heavy emphasis on energy dense, high fat, high salt and high sugar foods, and almost no promotion of foods that public health evidence encourages greater consumption of. Such marketing influences children’s knowledge, attitudes, and food choices. Evidence also shows that television advertising influences children’s food preferences, purchase requests and consumption patterns.
Network meetings and reports
The network was established in Norway in 2008, and since then network meetings have been held in Serbia, Slovenia, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Belgium, Denmark, Turkey, Switzerland, and Greece. The network runs in periods of two years, the current period is 2013–2015.
Reports from network meetings
Oslo, Norway, January 2008 (PDF)
Belgrade, Serbia, September 2008 (PDF)
Ljubljana, Slovenia, February 2009 (PDF)
London, The United Kingdom, June 2009 (PDF)
Lisbon, Portugal, March 2010 (PDF)
Brussels, Belgium March 2011 (PDF)
Copenhagen, Denmark, March 2012 (PDF)
Ankara, Turkey, May 2013 (PDF)
Bern, Switzerland, March 2014 (PDF)
- Athens, Greece, June 2015 (PDF)
As of November 2014, twenty-eight countries participate in the network: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Latvia, Macedonia, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.
Representatives from the World Health Organization, the European Commission, the United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, World Obesity (formerly IASO-IOTF), Consumers International, UNICEF, European Heart Forum and World Cancer Research Fund International participate as observers.
Who can be members?
Countries in the WHO European Region can be members of the WHO European Action Network on reducing marketing pressure on children.
Participants in the network work in governmental institutions i.e. Ministry of Health, Public Health Institute, Health Directorate, or have been nominated by the government. A country can nominate 1-2 persons.
Taking part in the network does not imply any particular policy preference with regards to regulatory approach. The views expressed by network members are not necessarily the official view of the countries represented.
The network is open for more countries and observers to join.
Please send an enquiry to the network secretariat if you have any questions.
Network goal and objectives
Long term goal of the network is to protect children’s health and wellbeing through sharing experiences and best practices in order to identify and implement specific actions which will substantially reduce the extent and impact of all marketing to children of high salt, energy-dense, micronutrient-poor foods and beverages as a basic human right.
1. To constitute a coalition of committed countries who can identify and demonstrate specific actions to protect children against pressure from marketing of high salt, energy-dense, micronutrient-poor foods and beverages.
2. To share and discuss experiences in work relating to regulation of food and beverage marketing to children and ensure that information is exchanged between the network countries and available to other countries in the Region and globally, including countries in transition.
3. To discuss approaches to control marketing of food and non-alcoholic beverage to children, such as statutory regulation, self-regulation, voluntary measures and co regulation and identify content and principles and contribute to international recommendations on the regulation of marketing of food and non-alcoholic beverage to children.
4. To develop tools and share experiences to support monitoring of food and beverage marketing to children, as well as compliance and impact of control mechanisms in place, and when possible to identify the impact on different socio-economic groups.
5. To discuss and come up with advice on nutrient profiling/profile models as a tool to control the marketing of food and beverages.
6. To follow-up and identify how WHO HQ Recommendations and Network Code can be used to support member states in their work to protect children from food and beverage marketing.
7. To report and contribute to various international meetings such as to the World Health Assembly and Regional Committee (RC) meetings in the WHO European Region.
8. To explore and develop multi-sectoral competences and knowledge, and health in all policies approach, involving different disciplines and sectors, enabling the network to achieve comprehensive solutions.
Network activities and documents
The network has supported the work of WHO on the development and implementation of the Set of recommendations on marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children (who.int).
The European Network Code
One working group in the network has looked at ways in which marketing regulation may be carried out in practice. This included examinations of the content of regulations, the regulations' aims, as well as various approaches to regulation. The work has resulted in the
European Network Code on Marketing of Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages to Children (PDF).
The network consists of technical experts from each network country. The Code was supported by the members of the network. The views expressed by network members are not necessarily the official view of the countries or organizations represented. The Network Code was submitted alongside a common response from the Network on the WHO Working Paper on the development of a set of recommendations on marketing foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children.
The Network Code is an example/case study of what a Code might look like.
Monitoring is an important issue for the network. One working group has looked at monitoring systems, entailing to assess various ways to monitor food marketing, both in terms of extent and how marketing is done. The network is currently developing a tool – a sweep protocol - for food monitoring marketing. It was decided at the last network meeting that monitoring should continue to be an important issue for the network.
At the network meeting in Ankara in May 2013, it was decided that nutrient profiling (NP) should be a high priority for the network over the next year. It was also decided that the network should continue to collaborate with WHO on further work on NP model for food marketing to children. NP was an important topic at the network meeting in Bern in 2014 (see meeting report).