February 27th, 2004

Support global ban on junk food marketing to children

By Gary Ruskin
Commercial Alert

February 27, 2004

Dear friends,

Today, Commercial Alert launched a campaign for a worldwide ban on marketing of junk food to children 12 years of age and under.  The purpose of the campaign is to help stop the rising global epidemic of childhood obesity.  Literally millions of lives are at stake.

Scores of health professionals and organizations have already endorsed the marketing ban in our statement on marketing of junk food to children (see below).  The statement calls on the World Health Organization to incorporate the marketing ban into its global anti-obesity initiative, or to enact the ban through international health regulations.  Such regulations are automatically legally binding on countries, unless they affirmatively opt out.

The statement has been endorsed by 135 organizations, 79 health experts and childrens advocates, and 22 elected officials from 18 different countries.  We sent it today to Dr. Jong-Wook Lee, Director-General of the World Health Organization.

National health ministers from across the planet will decide in May, at the next World Health Assembly meeting, whether to enact the marketing ban.  We need your help in persuading them to support it.

Here’s what you can do:

(1) Please call your countryҒs health minister today.  Ask your health minister to support (a) the adoption of a ban on marketing of junk food to kids 12 years of age and below, as a part of the World Health Organizations Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, which is pending at the upcoming World Health Assembly meeting on 17 to 22 May 2004; and, (b) to support the enactment of International Health Regulations to prohibit advertising of junk food to children twelve years of age and below at the World Health Assembly meeting.  (For United States citizens, call Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson.  His phone is: 202-690-7000.)

(2) Endorse the statement on junk food marketing to children.  Send your name, title, affiliation, address and country of origin to gary@commercialalert.org.

(3) Forward this message to others who care about children, and ask them to act on it.

If you have any questions about this campaign, how you can help, who your health minister is, or what their phone number is, please send email to info@commercialalert.org.

The statement follows.

Best,

Gary Ruskin

Statement on Junk Food Marketing to Children

Across the planet, obesity in children is reaching epidemic levels.  More kids are getting fatter; and not coincidentally, many of these children are the targets of saturation marketing by the junk food industry, which seeks to displace healthful local eating habits with its own high calorie, high-added-fat, high-added-sugar junk food.*

The time has come to reaffirm that raising children is the role and responsibility of parents.  It is not the role of the junk food industry or any other industry, and these corporations must stop injecting themselves into the relationship between parents and their own children.  They must stop creating strife in the home by prodding kids to whine and throw tantrums for junk food.  They must stop draining family budgets, especially in developing countries, by enticing children to demand junk food that their parents cannot afford.

These corporations must stop undermining the efforts of parents to transmit traditional—and healthful—eating habits to their children, and they must respect the sanctity of the family dinner table and the cultural heritage that surrounds it.

We, the undersigned, support a global ban on junk food marketing to children twelve years of age and below.  This one step is perhaps the single most inexpensive and cost-efficient way to reduce the global burden of obesity, diabetes and their complications among children.  It would require virtually no governmental expenditure, and would likely save families billions of dollars each year that could be better spent on such things as education, healthful food and health care.

Perhaps most important, it would reaffirm that raising children is the role of parents, and not of global junk food corporations.

We strongly urge the World Health Organization to incorporate such a ban into its Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, and to encourage its member states to adopt it.  Or, if necessary, the World Health Assembly should issue International Health Regulations to prohibit advertising of junk food to children twelve years of age and below.

* For the purposes of this statement, junk food is defined as foods or beverages that are relatively high in saturated or trans fat, added sugars or salt, and relatively low in vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber.

The list of endorsers for the Statement on Junk Food Marketing to Children is available in both html and pdf formats.

BACKGROUNDFor more information about the World Health Organization’s Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, see:* WHOs web page on its global strategy: http://www.who.int/hpr/global.strategy.shtml* WHOҒs report on Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases: http://www.who.int/hpr/NPH/docs/who_fao_expert_report.pdf* Commercial Alerts analysis of the U.S. Government’s secret attack on the WHO and its global anti-obesity strategy: http://www.archive.commercialalert.org/news/news-releases/2004/01/secret-document-shows-bush-administration-effort-to-stop-global-anti-obesity-initiative* An article on the WHO global strategy and the Bush Administrations attack on it: http://www.alternet.org/print.html?StoryID=17649

For more information about the World Health AssemblyҒs authority to approve legally binding International Health Regulations, see especially Articles 21-22 of the World Health Organization Constitution: http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/decade/decad051.htm#art21

ABOUT COMMERCIAL ALERTCommercial Alert is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to keep the commercial culture within its proper sphere, and to prevent it from exploiting children and subverting the higher values of family, community, environmental integrity and democracy.

Commercial Alert has more than 2000 members, representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia. For more information, or to become a member, go to https://www.groundspring.org/donate/index.cfm?ID=3D2404-0%7C1236-0, or visit our website at http://www.archive.commercialalert.org.

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