Upbeat music, cute cartoon characters, laughing children – and at the center of it all is a chocolate bar. Authorities have been trying for years to reach an agreement with food companies on voluntary rules for candy advertising specifically aimed at children. But the restrictions that the industry itself is willing to impose do not go far enough for the federal government.
That’s why he wants to take action now. Food law will soon be revised. Within this framework, the federal government also plans to regulate advertising to children. Namely advertising for all products that are too sweet, too fatty, too salty or too high in energy according to nutritional advice.
It will be concrete next year
The SonntagsZeitung already reported on the plans in the spring. These have now become more concrete: the Federal Office for Food Safety and Veterinary Affairs wants to come up with a concrete proposal in the first half of 2024. All interested parties can then comment on this before parliament decides whether the regulations will be tightened.
Research shows that regulation can have drastic consequences for food companies. At least if it is enshrined in law, which the federal government has been campaigning for for years. He demands that companies adhere to the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) when advertising to children.
80 percent of advertising is influenced
Under the name Swiss Pledge, the major food companies committed in 2010 not to advertise sweets and other unhealthy products to children under the age of 13. For several years now, the voluntary commitment also applies to advertising on social media. But the criteria for what is considered unhealthy are much more limited than those of the WHO. Nearly 80 percent of advertising aimed at children would no longer be permitted under WHO regulations in the future, according to the results of research by the Arc Neuchâtel University of Applied Sciences on behalf of the federal government.
Consumer advocates are fighting over legal barriers. President and SP state councilor Nadine Masshardt (39) believes that children should not be constantly confronted with incentives for unhealthy food. She points to the high annual health care costs that cause overweight and obesity. In 2012, the federal government estimated approximately 8 billion francs.
With social media and YouTube, the problem has taken on a new dimension, says Sophie Michaud Gigon (48), Vaud Green National Councilor and Secretary General of the French-speaking Swiss consumer association FRC: “We are losing control.” The voluntary efforts of companies are not sufficient, because on the one hand, too few companies participate and on the other hand, the self-imposed restrictions do not go far enough.
The industry is fighting it
Swiss Pledge rejects legal restrictions on advertising. Evaluations show that voluntary regulation works. Moreover, companies oppose adopting the WHO recommendations because it is then “no longer the Swiss legislature, but international organizations that decide what advertising is allowed.”
Michaud Gigon does not accept this argument. It makes sense to follow the WHO recommendations. But it is Parliament that decides and not the organization. In Germany, advertising regulation is currently being planned, based on WHO guidelines.
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