Cartoon characters shine on chewy sweets, Internet stars start chips eating competitions: According to a Hamburg study, children see an average of 15 advertisements a day for unhealthy food. An alliance of scientists, paediatricians and the AOK Federal Association therefore called on Thursday to prohibit child marketing for such products in all types of media. This is already standard in many countries. The data from the study by the University of Hamburg come from the time before the corona pandemic and relate to television and the Internet.
“Compared to the end of 2007, the advertising intensity aimed at children has risen by 29 percent,” was a result of TV spots. “The companies have deliberately increased the advertising pressure on children,” criticized Sigrid Peter, deputy chairwoman of the professional association of paediatricians. Many parents are not aware of how much advertising for fast food or sweets their children really get each day. “We see the harmful health consequences of this in our practices every day.”
Obesity and tooth decay
The scientific alliance German Alliance for Noncommunicable Diseases (thanks) stated that one in seven children in Germany is overweight. It called for a statutory ban on advertising. It is high time to make the industry responsible, said Kai Kolpatzik from the AOK Federal Association. Because voluntary commitments have so far been in vain.
The Central Association of the German Advertising Industry criticized the “striking results of the study”. He rejected calls for a ban on food advertising. The investigation gives the incorrect impression that the problem of overweight and obesity in children can be solved by advertising bans. The responsibility for nutrition, exercise or education of children lies primarily with the parents and the social environment. The German Food Association also warned against focusing too one-sidedly. “A ban on advertising for individual foods does not make people slim,” said Managing Director Christoph Minhoff.
The Hamburg study by economist Tobias Effertz analyzed the advertising contacts of children aged 3 to 13 for the period March 2019 to February 2020 for the Internet and from June to September 2019 for television. As a result, a child who uses the media in Germany sees an average of around five commercials or advertisements on the Internet and around ten on television for Dickmacher. According to the information, the consequences are obesity and tooth decay.
Children are easy to manipulate
According to the study, companies lure children to unhealthy products on their websites and try to keep them there for a long time, for example with the help of games. Even influencers with a large reach would advertise unhealthy food on social networks. The children want to eat the same thing as their idols, as the chairman of the German Diabetes Foundation, Hans Hauner, reported. “That is cleverly exploited.” Children are very easy to manipulate. “Advertising activities in digital media are increasing rapidly and are particularly effective,” the professor continued to criticize.
When asked, Federal Food Minister Julia Klöckner (CDU) stressed that advertising should not induce children to eat unhealthily. “I recently made that clear to the Central Association of the German Advertising Industry,” she explained. “I ask him to tighten the rules of conduct – specifically, I call for improvements in the age limit and in advertising for foods with an unfavorable nutritional composition.”
In the opinion of the consumer organization Foodwatch, a legal report commissioned by them shows that Klöckner could initiate extensive advertising restrictions as a federal law. “The report thus refutes the minister’s statements that it is not the federal government but the federal states that are responsible for children’s marketing in the radio, television and Internet sectors,” said Foodwatch. The Federal Ministry then reiterated that it was up to the federal states to review the effectiveness of their existing regulations and to update them if necessary.