Protecting children from unhealthy foods and drinks

News release

WHO/Y. Shimizu

The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for the Western Pacific today launched an important new tool to protect children from unhealthy foods and drinks. The regional Nutrient Profile Model will help governments and policy-makers to more easily identify food and non-alcoholic beverages that should not be marketed to children.

Nutrient profiles rank foods by their nutritional composition. As such, they are critical tools for the implementation of restrictions on the marketing of foods and beverages to children.

Across the Western Pacific Region, marketers of unhealthy food and beverages target children. These food and beverages are high in calories, saturated and trans fats, salt and sugar, the consumption of which are driving exploding rates of obesity and other health problems in many countries across the Region.

"Children are constantly bombarded with clever marketing campaigns that use advertising, promotion and sponsorship techniques pioneered by the tobacco and alcohol industries," said Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific.

"Marketing plays a major role in shaping their diet, preferences and consumption patterns," he added. "Imbedded early on, these effects last a lifetime, so we must protect our children's health from these harmful influences."

Evidence shows a link between the exposure to marketing and unhealthy dietary behaviours. Unhealthy diets are a key risk factor for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in children, including obesity and tooth decay. Despite this evidence, children remain inadequately protected from harmful marketing practices including television, print and billboard advertising, Internet, promotion and sponsorship of school and sports events.

Childhood obesity and diet-related NCDs are a complex public health problem among children and adolescents across the Western Pacific Region. In several countries, overweight affects up to 15% of children under age 5 and almost 60% of adolescents in some Pacific island countries. Dental caries also affect between 60–95% of children under 5 in some countries. Growing rates of overweight and obesity are also linked to a rise in noncommunicable diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Despite the Region's growing NCDs crisis, governments struggle to implement policies to reduce the consumption of unhealthy foods and non-alcoholic beverages. Restrictions on marketing are part of a comprehensive set of policy options to reduce consumption of unhealthy foods and address diet-related NCDs. These are also part of the time-bound commitments that Member States made to combat NCDs. Other policy options include front and back of packed food labeling and the restrictions on unhealthy foods and beverages sold in schools.

The Nutrient Profile Model was developed in collaboration with Member States with guidance from WHO.

Note to editors:

Nutrient profiles rank foods by their nutritional composition and as such are an important tool to prevent disease and promote health. Nutrient profiles are considered critical tools for the implementation of restrictions on the marketing of foods to children and provide a way to differentiate between food and non-alcoholic beverages that are more likely to be part of a healthy diet from foods that may contribute to excess consumption of energy, saturated fats, trans fats, sugar and salt. Nutrient profiling is a tool to categorize foods, not diets, but can be used through policy to improve the overall nutritional quality of diets.

For further information, please contact:

Mr Eloi Yao
Public Information Officer
Telephone: +632 528 9992

Mr Ruel E. Serrano
Public Information Office
Telephone: +632 528 9993