The European Parliament (EP) report (1), on the rights of vulnerable consumers passed last Tuesday, May 22. It calls on the Commission to get rid of its flawed course to protect young people from the might of food and beverages advertising. Yet, the EP still seems disappointedly cautious in prioritising consumers above the corporative interests of these industries.
Brussels, May 24 - The report calls on the Commission “for an in-depth analysis into whether stricter rules are needed regarding advertising aimed at children and young people”, and yet if the EU executive first report on the implementation of the Audiovisual Media Service Directive is an indication - the main tool at its disposal falls short of safeguarding the most vulnerable consumers in what appears a disguised concession to the food and beverage industry.
The EP is right in urging the Commission to make the protection of children a priority in its Consumer Agenda (2). Monika Kosińska, Secretary General of the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), points out that “the youngest members of our societies are bombarded daily with sometimes intrusive, mostly misleading, TV and online advertising. Parents and health professionals concerned with rising obesity will fail miserably unless the advertising of food and beverages is properly regulated." Ms Kosińska continues by saying that “Europe has not entered yet the 21st century of advertising – an age where the vulnerable consumer is not hampered through manipulated marketing."
Instead of appealing for a new analysis on how today’s predatory advertising manipulates our children’s’ diets, the EP should be discussing stronger measures to put an end to an era in which the interests of the food and beverages industry dictate what children and youngsters eat and drink.
One of the areas where the EP regretfully appears to uphold the industry’s profits at the expense of the consumer’s rights is when backing self-regulatory initiatives, a model that only works for the industry. “Affordability, accessibility and availability form a cruel troika prompting the consumption of unhealthy food and drinks among children and adolescents. Sophisticated advertising manoeuvres lure growing numbers into becoming long, loyal consumers. That is exactly what these industries like to see, and data from the Mediterranean countries shows that it is young people who are no longer choosing the good diets of generations” argues Ms Kosińska, who goes on to say “self-regulatory schemes need to be discussed with scepticism until they emerge as more than public affairs exercises. The EP has let many people down today in what symbolizes a missed opportunity to safeguard our eating habits,” points out Ms Kosińska.
EPHA regrets that, whereas there was a substantial pool of MEPs making the case, the logic of restricting the food and beverage industry’s room to mislead young consumers has been repeatedly discarded at a voting level - an opportunity missed that needs to be reversed.
Notes to editors
(1) European Parliament report on a Strategy for Strengthening the Rights of Vulnerable Consumers.
To know more
Javier Delgado Rivera, Communications Coordinator- +32 2 233 38 76 or firstname.lastname@example.org