From June new restrictions on marketing to children for food companies and traders.
From June 1, all food companies and traders on the Belgian market must take into account new restrictions in their marketing to children. The self-regulatory initiative, the Belgian Pledge, will then be incorporated into the New Food Advertising Code, with stricter criteria that apply to protect a wider group of children. The Advertising Ethical Practices Jury (JEP) will monitor compliance and review complaints. Comeos, Fevia and UBA call on all companies to adapt their marketing aimed at children to the stricter rules of the New Advertising Code.
Integration of two self-regulatory initiatives
In recent years, the Belgian food sector has committed itself to responsible marketing through two self-regulatory initiatives. On the one hand, since 2005, the Advertising Code has prescribed principles that apply to all forms of advertising aimed at consumers for food products available in the Belgian trade. The Advertising Ethical Practices Jury (JEP) monitors compliance with these principles and issues an annual report.
On the other hand, since 2012, 53 individual companies have also signed the Belgian Pledge, a commitment to limit marketing to children to products that meet specific nutritional criteria. The Belgian Pledge has evolved in recent years, including stricter criteria and an extension to social media and influencers.
From 1 June, the sector will go a step further by integrating the Belgian Pledge into the New Advertising Code for foodstuffs. As a result, the rules will apply to all food companies and traders who advertise their food and drinks on the Belgian market. The New Advertising Code will therefore contain both the general principles and the restriction for marketing to children. When drawing up the code, Comeos, Fevia and UBA were able to call on the expertise of the Communication Center vzw.
More children protected, with stricter rules
The rules on marketing to children in the New Advertising Code will not only apply to more companies, but go even further than the rules of the Belgian Pledge in 3 areas:
- The age limit that determines whether companies can still advertise to children will be raised from children under 12 to children under 13.
- The rules apply to all programs where the target audience consists of at least 30% children under the age of 13 (currently it is still 35%).
- For all kinds of meat products, (sweet and savory) biscuits, cakes and cereal bars, stricter criteria will apply to be allowed to do marketing. As was already the case for soft drinks and sugar-based products, including chocolate, companies will no longer be allowed to advertise ice cream and chips to children at all.
The JEP, the independent body that assesses complaints from consumers and organizations about marketing, will apply the new stricter rules from 1 June 2023. In the event of well-founded complaints, the JEP will request the company concerned to adjust or stop advertising. In addition, the JEP will include the complaint with the decision in its annual evaluation report and publish this report on its website.
The code can be found on the website of the JEP: https://www.jep.be/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/Nieuwe-Reclamecode-voor-voedings-2023.pdf
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