Protecting Children from Harmful marketing 

October 2017

The meeting of WHO’s Western Pacific Region (WPRO) took place last week in Brisbane,  Australia 9-13th October and a new Resolution (WPR/RC68.R3) Protecting Children from Harmful Marketing was adopted.  The 37 countries and areas of the Western Pacific stretch more than a third of the way around the globe — its 1.9 billion people make up the world’s most diverse Region in terms of people and places.

Dr. Shin Young-soo, WPRO  Regional Director explained to the press: “When children are exposed to food marketing, their diets change … And when parents are exposed to formula marketing, this undermines breastfeeding.”

There is evident concern about the marketing in the WPRO region. (For examples see  IBFAN’s Breaking the Rules Report 2017 )   Several countries, including Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines made statements about the importance of regulation. Hong Kong mentioned the industry pressure (including threats to their ‘voluntary code’ )

Resolution WPR/RC68.R3  

The regional Committee:

“Taking into consideration guidance provided by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in its General Comments on the rights of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health (CRC/C/GC/15); and on state obligations regarding the impact of the business sector on children’s rights (CRC/C/GC/16); 

Noting the report Protecting children from the harmful impact of food marketing;  [and Page down]

Concerned that, despite Member State efforts, harmful effects of food marketing on the diet and health of children continue to be widespread in the Region,

1. URGES Member States to accelerate multisectoral and multi-stakeholder action to protect children from harmful impacts of food marketing and share best practices; 

2. REQUESTS the Regional Director: 

(1) to advocate and provide technical support to Member States to protect children from harmful impacts of food marketing; 

(2) to foster collaboration among Member States to share experiences and best practices on mechanisms for measuring and mitigating the harmful impacts of food marketing; 

(3) to develop a regional action plan on protecting children from the harmful impact of food marketing, in consultation with Member States and seeking views of key stakeholders. “

Here is the text the WPRO FACT SHEET



  • No country in the Western Pacific Region is free from malnutrition
  • Eight countries in the Region has an exclusive breastfeeding rate greater than 50%
  • More than 6.2 million children under 5 years of age were overweight or obese in the Region in 2014
  • The Asia and Pacific region accounted for over US$ 20 billion
  • of US$ 36 billion global growth in infant formula sales since 2003 Marketing of unhealthy foods ranges from 53.7% to 92% of food marketing to children in 9 countries in the Region

Many countries in the Region struggle with multiple forms of malnutrition: undernutrition, overweight and obesity, and diet-related noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Acute and chronic malnutrition threaten health, human development, well-being and economic productivity. WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months continued up to two years with complementary foods but too many babies in the Region are fed breast-milk substitutes, such as infant formula and ‘growing-up milks’. Marketing of breast-milk substitutes contributes to low rates of exclusive breastfeeding and suboptimal breastfeeding. Breast-milk substitutes continue to be widely promoted, sometimes by health professionals and through health systems. This puts childrens’ health at risk, exposing them to a higher risk of diarrhoea and other potentially deadly diseases in the short-term, and a higher risk of NCDs and lower IQ long-term. Wider availability of cheaper, unhealthy food contributes to increasing prevalence of overweight, obesity and diet-related NCDs. Research shows that children, in particular, are extremely susceptible to marketing messages. Acute exposure to food advertising is associated with increased food intake in children.

WHO Response
Since governments endorsed the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes in 1981, 19 other World Health Assembly resolutions have further clarified types of marketing and emphasized the need to strengthen monitoring and enforcement of the Code. However,
implementation remains a challenge. In fact, only four countries (Fiji, Palau, the Philippines and Viet Nam) in the Region have fully implemented the Code.  WHO helps countries in the Region to apply the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding  (IYCF), including through legislating, monitoring and evaluating Code implementation. A study found that the IYCF strategy is effective in mitigating the influence of marketing and thereby improving exclusive breastfeeding rates. In addition, WHO works with partners such as the International Labor Organization on maternity protection so that mothers can be with their infants to breastfeed, and with UNICEF on a Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative to help new mothers get breastfeeding established after delivery. The Code and subsequent World Health Assembly resolutions, the Action Plan for Healthy Newborn Infants in the Western Pacific Region (2014-2020), the WHO Set of recommendations on the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children, the Framework for implementing the set of recommendations, the Western Pacific Regional Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (2014-2020) and the Action Plan to Reduce the Double Burden of Malnutrition in the Western Pacific Region (2015-2020) recommend effective national measures to protect breastfeeding and restrict food marketing to children.
The Republic of Korea has taken legal measures to protect children from the harmful impact of food marketing, consistent with the WHO Set of recommendations on the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children
© World Health Organization 2017
Some rights reserved. This work is available under the CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO license.
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