September 2014 – Actions to Restrict Food Marketing to Children: International Best Practices

What is an international best practice?

  • ŸThe World Health Organization recommends adopting a comprehensive approach
  • Internationally, there is no M2K approach that is comprehensive. Some countries have adopted partial approaches, which have not proven to decrease exposure of marketing of food and beverages to children
  • In order to develop a policy which restricts M2K, “marketing” “food” “to” “children” (“by”) all need to be defined

“When that policy window opens, civil society organizations need to be there with a set of definitions that they’ve all agreed upon. That’s really what needs to come first”

–Dr. Corinna Hawkes

Evidence of the effectiveness of Partial M2K approaches

  • ŸEvidence demonstrates that partial restrictions do reduce the amount of M2K, according to the definitions and that total exposure is not necessarily reduced
  • Strongest evidence suggests that marketing has been migrating beyond the definitions. Therefore, we need to think carefully about we design these policies

Lessons for Success

  • ŸFocus on the definition of the approach to avoid industry increasing marketing in other ways.
  • Researchers wont often engage with the indicators that the industry is using. It would be good for public health researchers to use the same indicators as industry in order to compare the results.


  • ŸThere is evidence on the long-term effects of food and beverage marketing to children, but we have to look in the marketing literature.
  • How do we prioritize this over other policy options? 1) such marketing conflicts with public health messages. Removing such marketing will enhance and increase efficiency of health promotion approaches 2) long term impact on preferences. If you are going to tackle obesity in the longer term, need to change habits that occur early on in life.
  • We need to remember that advertising is subliminal; we don’t realize we are affected by it so it is not surprising that parents don’t see the importance of restricting food and beverage marketing to children

Thank you to our speaker

Dr. Corinna Hawkes is currently the Head of Policy and Public Affairs for World Cancer Research Fund International. Dr. Hawkes has extensive experience and expertise in gathering and analyzing information on food policies for diet and health. She has advanced the study and application of food policies to address obesity and NCDs in her work for the WHO, national governments, foundations and NGOs.

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