Public figures and influencers will not be able to advertise unhealthy sweets and desserts aimed at minors
Last October, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs announced that it would issue a new regulation on the advertising content of foods “harmful” to children’s health. This week, the Ministry has published a draft Royal Decree starting a 15-day hearing and information period so that associations and the sector can make contributions.
The brief proposes to restrict the use of the image of public figures, such as artists, athletes or influencers in the promotion of foods and beverages with a high content of sodium, sugars, sweeteners, fats and saturated fatty acids aimed at children. The law is expected to receive approval by the end of 2022.
In addition, the text explains that ” no form of promotion aimed at children may be carried out , such as prizes, gifts, contests, raffles or sponsorships , aimed at supporting the advertising of foods and beverages with a high content of sodium, sugars, sweeteners , fats and saturated fatty acids.
According to the document, the objective of the measure is “to guarantee the protection of the rights to health and comprehensive development of children”, a sector of the population that is very vulnerable to advertising and marketing. It is not the first time that restrictions on advertising aimed at children have been announced; A few months ago we saw how YouTube updated the regulations on showing this type of content to the smallest of the house.
The decision generated a lot of controversy on the networks when it was announced last October, especially among advertising agencies and companies that produce, manufacture or sell food and beverages in Spain. We will have to wait for the period of public contributions and comments on the draft to pass to know what the final restrictions of the decree will be. Check out more on article site.
The Ministry of Consumption limits the advertising of harmful foods to children
The Minister of Consumption, Alberto Garzón, did not comment on Twitter about these updates, as he had done last October with the original announcement:
This regulation stems from the growing trend of childhood overweight and obesity in the country, which is becoming a public health problem. In this way, 41% of Spanish minors suffer from these health problems , alarming if we take into account that in 2019 this figure was around 20% . This puts the country on a par with others such as Mexico and the United States, where these health problems are a constant that affects the population.
This measure comes in a very similar way to the one taken in August on the advertising of games of chance and bookmakers . Garzón, as in this case, announced the measure on Twitter, alleging that it would be a means of making football and other competitions a healthier place in line with sporting values.
What will the ban consist of?
This new measure presented will continue the development of the Food Safety and Nutrition Law established in 2011, which already proposed greater regulation in advertising in this sector. Similarly , the government states that this decree will serve to cover the gaps left by the Paos Code , incorporated in 2005 . This allows the food sector to self-regulate in these aspects, but according to Garzón, it has proven to be insufficient.
The ban will abide by the nutrient profiles used by the WHO , which have been shown to be more restrictive than those presented in the Nutri-Score. This, let us remember, has been a system of voluntary food regulation that has been wanted to be implemented. However, it has presented various controversies regarding its criteria, since it marks products such as olive oil with a poor rating, instead giving a better grade to ultra-processed products .
In this way, the norm will cover in a general way 5 categories of totally prohibited products:
- Chocolate and confectionery, energy bars, sweet toppings and desserts
- cakes, sweet cookies and pastries; other confectionery products, and powders to prepare them
- Energy drinks
- Ice creams
Then, name 10 categories that will have their advertising restricted according to the content of fats, sugars and sodium per 100 grams of the product . The striking thing is that in this instance pasta, breakfast cereals, yogurt or cheese could be included, among other foods that could seem healthy to us.
There are only two categories 100% allowed: fresh and frozen meat, poultry, fish and the like (eggs); and fruit, fresh and frozen vegetables, and legumes.
The National Markets and Competition Commission (CNMC) will be the body in charge of ensuring compliance with this regulation.
As for the issuers, it prohibits the appearance of “mothers or fathers, educators, teachers, children’s program professionals, athletes, artists, influencers, people or characters of relevance, public notoriety or proximity to the children’s audience , whether they are real or from fiction, which due to their trajectory are likely to constitute a model or example for minors”.
A regulation that will affect the digital world
Given the impact of social networks and platforms such as YouTube within the young population, this regulation will be extended to these spaces. Months ago the Ministry of Consumption had already announced its interest in restricting junk food advertising, which with this new decree will soon be established. In this way, both television and outdoor advertisements, videos and social networks will come under regulation.
In the digital ecosystem, this can present a greater problem than in the case of television, since it is a much broader medium. In addition, it will also present a problem for the influencers and content creators who make life in these spaces. Since it is common practice for creators to generate sponsored content for junk food brands. Or that they simply upload content by consuming some unhealthy foods. This is especially the case for channels and creators that operate within the mukbang trend, a type of content that consists of recording a video or streaming while eating large amounts of food in a very close shot.
The regulation will affect ads on children’s television channels throughout the day , as well as on radio and television programs aimed at children under 16, as well as before and after the spaces aimed at children. The regulation will also restrict advertising on general channels during the hours of reinforced protection of minors (from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on working days, and from 7:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays). In social networks, applications, internet and print media, content that is directed to children under 16 will not be advertised.
The proposal was not to the liking of the entire community
Beyond the premise of protecting the health of the little ones, the original announcement made by Garzón last October received adverse responses on the social network. Many of them came from parents, who affirmed that the education and care of their children is their exclusive job, as we see in the following example.
Also, some users of the social network highlighted a kind of double talk in this new measure. These strengthen his position in the support shown by Garzón for the legalization of cannabis in previous months. Since although cannabis or marijuana is used as an adjuvant in different medical disorders in some countries, it is still a drug and has a great and deep taboo around its use.
The reaction of the Spanish Association of Advertisers
Another of the negative reactions last October was that of the Spanish Association of Advertisers (aea) , in line with what was stated by the Spanish Federation of Food and Drink Industries (FIAB) and other associations in the food chain. At that time, the institution issued a statement in which it rejected the surprising and unjustified approach of this Ministry.
“The Spanish Association of Advertisers is integrated into the Paos Code Monitoring Commission from where work is being done on updating said Code. By virtue of this, in recent months, the food and beverage industry has offered to voluntarily reduce more than 75% of advertising aimed at children.
The Paos Code represents a balanced response to the regulatory needs in the field of food and beverage advertising aimed at minors. It is a pioneering commitment that is highly recognized and valued in Europe, an example of action and commitment by the industry in agreement with the Administration for the benefit of consumers, which means that it is not necessary to develop specific regulations in this area.
For all these reasons, these statements by the Minister of Consumer Affairs, Alberto Garzón, are surprising, since, at the last meeting of said Monitoring Commission, which took place on Wednesday, October 27, the representative of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs assured that no decision had been taken in relation to the nutritional profile on which the advertising limitations will be based. The final decision ensured that it would be the result of a debate in which consensus would be sought among all the parties involved.
The aea has always been open to collaboration with the administration to which it expresses its willingness to continue working in this collaborative and self-regulatory way. The advertising industry cannot be stigmatized or curtailed in its recovery and, even more so, after the sharp period with the COVID 19 pandemic that has affected advertising investments so much.
This sector, for which there are already multiple restrictive self-regulatory codes, is also a multiplier of economic value with direct and indirect effects on the business fabric. In Spain, it contributes 1.3% to GDP and generates a turnover of more than 18,720 million euros, which represents 3.5% of the entire service sector and more than 100,000 jobs, being an industry recognized worldwide for which almost 41,000 companies are part of.