In Europe, two-thirds of countries now have, or are proposing, statements on food marketing to children in their national health plans.
"That is a big shift," Lobstein said. "Six years ago, there were only about two or three countries out of the 50 or so in European region doing this, so this decade has seen a rapid increase in awareness by government policy makers, who are increasingly writing it into their strategies."
Also, the UK took a lead in 2006 by banning ads for specific types of food during children's viewing hours. This was considered a major step, Lobstein said, because it introduced a legal definition of junk food, using a formula based on the nutrient profile of food products.
In the United States, a federal interagency working group established last year is developing proposals for voluntary nutritional standards for food and drink marketed to children and adolescents under the age of 18. The final proposals are scheduled to be submitted in a report to the U.S. Congress by July. Lobstein also noted that U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama's childhood obesity initiative does not rule out the possibility of regulation if voluntary measures prove insufficient.
He said the passage of a resolution - without dissent - at the annual meeting of member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva in May is another mark of progress. The resolution urged countries to implement recommendations contained in a report on restricting food and drink marketing to children and instructed WHO to provide technical support. "A general resolution endorsing a set of recommendations doesn't look dramatic, but it consolidates the progress made so
|Contact: Emma Ross|
International Association for the Study of Obesity