20th June 2014

The EU Health Council adopted some important  Conclusions  on Nutrition and Physical Activity on Friday.

Because of its importance to the economy, the EU seems to have chosen to ‘persuade’ rather than ‘regulate’ the food industry.’ In our view this overlooks the  human rights context. Governments, as primary duty bearers, have an obligation not only  to protect, promote and support breastfeeding and provide the enabling environment women need to breastfeed optimally.(1,2), but to ensure – through appropriate legislation – that ‘marketing and advertising do not have adverse impacts on children’s rights’ .(3,4)

Below are some quick comments on the Council conclusions:

• Para 30: Its good that the need for promotion and support for breastfeeding and appropriate complementary feeding is highlighted. But why no explicit mention of the need for marketing controls  such as the  International Code and Resolutions?   Thankfully there is no mention of partnerships in this paragraph and hopefully MSs will interpret this wisely and not feel pressured to agree everything with industry first. The Para also highlights  the EU Action Plan on Childhood Obesity  but  only  ‘where appropriate.’

• Para 21  recommends the need to  “counteract misleading, excessive or inadequate forms of advertising and marketing”  Why‘‘counteract’ rather than  ‘stop’ and why “inadequate forms of advertising and marketing’?

• Para 40 worryingly refers to  ‘partnerships with all stakeholders including industry’   and promotes the EU Platform as a sort of model – way before there is any justification for doing so. Thankfully this paragraph is focused on reformulation and does not refer to  ‘policy setting’  but to ‘action and agreement’  (the new industry acceptable terms?)  But it nevertheless opens the door for inappropriate commercial influence. Why is the word ‘Partnership’ used here? It doesn’t add anything  and the word ‘stakeholder’ is an industry term best avoided.

• Para 41 Promotes  the need for “action to reduce the exposure of children, to advertising, marketing and promotion of foods high in saturated fats, trans fatty acids, added sugars or salt.”  but fails to call for the regulations that are so urgently needed.


[i] Committee on the Rights of the Child, General comment No. 15 (2013)The right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health (Article. 24) 14 March 2013, CRC/C/GC/15
Para 44 states:  Exclusive breastfeeding for infants up to 6 months should be protected and promoted and breastfeeding should continue together with appropriate complementary foods preferably until two years of age as feasible. States’ obligations in this area are defined in the “protect, promote and support framework”, adopted unanimously by the World Health Assembly.[i][ WHO, Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding, 2003.] States are required to introduce into national law, implement and enforce internationally agreed standards concerning children’ right to health, including the International Code on Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, as well as the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Special measures should be taken to promote community and workplace support to mothers in relation to pregnancy and lactation, and feasible and affordable child-care services, and compliance to the ILO Maternity Protection Convention 2000 (No. 183).
[ii] Convention on the Rights of the Child, Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) recognises the right of mothers to breastfeed, to appropriate assistance in the performance of child-rearing responsibilities and the development of institutions, facilities and services for the care of children. Children of working parents have the right to benefit from child-care services and facilities for which they are eligible.

[iv] 16 June 2011, the UN Human Rights Council endorsed the “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework” proposed by UN Special Representative John Ruggie. http://www.business-humanrights.org/UNGuidingPrinciplesPortal/Home
[v] General comment No. 16 (2013) on State obligations regarding the impact of the business sector on children’s rights* Para 20 “States should ensure that marketing and advertising do not have adverse impacts on children’s rights by adopting appropriate regulation and encouraging business enterprises to adhere to codes of conduct and use clear and accurate product labelling and information that allow parents and children to make informed consumer decisions.”
crc/c/gc/16 site:www2.ohchr.org

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