Ayoub Al-Jawaldeh and Alexa Meyer

Published On


Page Range

pp. 95–124

3.2 Regulation of Marketing of Foods and Non-Alcoholic Beverages as well as Breastmilk Substitutes through Traditional and Digital Media

The marketing of foods and beverages is another starting point to direct consumption towards healthier patterns. This is especially true for advertising unhealthy foods and beverages to children and adolescents, which is associated with a higher risk of obesity. Actions to regulate and control food marketing to children and adolescents have so far been taken in 11 of the 22 countries of the Eastern Mediterranean Region. However, surveys have shown weaknesses in their enforcement. Indeed, a high proportion of advertisements broadcast on children's programmes relate to unhealthy foods and beverages high in sugar, salt or fat. Moreover, the focus on traditional media such as television and print media does not take into account the growing importance of new channels such as the Internet and social media, which are much harder to control, not least because of their cross-border impact. Breast-milk substitutes are another group of foods that is aggressively marketed, posing a threat to breastfeeding. In view of the increasing use of breast-milk substitutes worldwide, as early as 1981 the World Health Assembly released the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes to limit the negative impact of the advertising of infant formula and related products. While, in 2020, 70% of the WHO’s Member States had transposed at least some provisions of the Code into national legislation, the rate of substantial alignment was much lower. Notably, the Eastern Mediterranean Region has the highest proportion of countries falling into this category (32%) even though there is still need for improvement.