Study finds support for use of 'Sydney Principles' to restrict marketing to children

In collaboration with the Press Association

A new international code on marketing food and beverage to children should be formed and based on the 'Sydney Principles', a set of seven principles developed by the International Obesity Taskforce (IOTF), a new study has said.

The Sydney Principles aim to guide action on changing food and beverage marketing practices that target children, a goal which health experts believe is imperative if rising levels of obesity are to be curbed and numbers of obesity-related diseases, including some forms of cancer, are to be reduced.

After smoking, obesity is one of the most important preventable causes of cancer. Being overweight or obese is linked to cancers of the womb, kidney, colon, gallbladder and oesophagus, and to breast cancer in postmenopausal women.

A new study, published in the journal Public Health Nutrition, has analysed feedback on the seven principles which was gathered during a global consultation between November 2006 and April 2007.

Study author Professor Boyd Swinburn, of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention at Australia's Deakin University, commented: "The food and advertising industries fully supported the Sydney Principles, except where it called for statutory regulations.

"Their claim that the existing self-regulatory measures truly provide protection for children needs to be put under the microscope because there is a lot of scepticism about such claims."

The seven Sydney Principles state that actions to reduce marketing to children should support the rights of children; afford substantial protection to children; be statutory; take a wide definition of commercial promotions; guarantee commercial-free childhood settings; include cross-border media; and be subject to evaluation, monitoring and enforcement.

Of the 229 responses received to the consultation, the vast majority of professional and scientific associations, consumer bodies, industry bodies, health professionals and other interested parties agreed that a set of principles are needed.

Each of the principles was supported by a wide group of stakeholders, except for some opposition to the third principle (that the actions should be statutory) from within the food and advertising industries.

There were also some concerns about the challenges to implementing the principles. More specifically, concerns were raised about the age range to which restrictions should apply and the types of products that should be included.

The study authors concluded: "The Sydney Principles?should be used to benchmark action to reduce marketing to children [and] should guide the formation of an international code on food and beverage marketing to children."

Professor Swinburn added: "The Sydney Principles are centred on ethics and the protection of children which is where this debate on marketing to children needs to sit.

"The momentum is building for an international code on marketing to children, so we expect that the Sydney Principles will underpin the content of such a code."