Friday, June 21, 2024
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Protecting the future

Azlan Othman

The introduction of guidelines to restrict the marketing of unhealthy food and beverage to children is one of the priorities identified in creating a more conducive environment to allow healthier food options and lifestyle.

The initiative to develop Code of Responsible Marketing of Food and Beverages to Children in Brunei Darussalam was started in 2018 under the behest of the Multisectoral Taskforce for Health: Giving Every Child the Best Start in Life.

A dialogue session was held recently with the Ministry of Health (MoH) to outline the three principles behind the code.

The code serves as a guidance for food and marketing industries to be responsible on the marketing of their products particularly to children.

It is also a resource and reference guide for policymakers and relevant stakeholders, including schools, in controlling the marketing of food and beverages to children.

The implementation of the code will be conducted in phases on various advertisements and marketing platforms such as printed media on billboards, posters, newspapers and magazines, during exhibitions, in cinemas, news websites as well as radio and television channels.

Principle 1 stipulates that all marketing to children must be prepared with and observe a sense responsibility to consumers and to society. Guidelines supporting Principle 1 are Halal certification/Halal permit (label) from Brunei Islamic Religious Council (MUIB) is mandatory for food and beverages produced in the Sultanate. Halal certificate/Halal permit label is required to be displayed in premises.

Marketing must not undermine the role of parents, guardians or caregivers in educating children to have a balanced diet and be healthy individuals. Marketing must not urge children to ask or pressure their parents, guardians or caregivers to buy particular food or beverages for them.

Words, tones or pictures adopted in marketing must not encourage or pressure either children into frequently or excessively consume, or their parents, guardians or caregivers into buying any food and beverages including via direct-response mechanism.

Promotion or advertisement must not include non-halal products. The quantity of the food depicted in marketing must be appropriate for consumption by the person depicted. This must not suggest that a portion intended for more than one child is to be consumed by a single individual, or that an adult’s portion may be consumed by a child.

Nutrient and nutrition claims must comply with the requirements of the Public Health (Food) Regulations and Guideline on Marketing of Food and Beverages To Children in Brunei Darussalam. Such claims should not mislead or deceive the consumer.

Marketing for slimming products or foods sold as an aid to lose weight must not be directed to children.

Food and beverages products marketed on any local radio and television must not be directly accessible from programmes commissioned for, principally directed at or likely to appeal to children 15 minutes before, during or 15 minutes after child-dedicated radio and television programming hours, be aired at 6.30-7.30 am, 11.30am-1.30pm and 4-6pm; appear on editorial pages (text or interactive) such as TV tickers and pop-up advertisements that are likely to be of particular appeal to a significant audience of children.

Marketing must not be accessible before and after cinema movies watched by children under 14 years old (with or without adult). Marketing must not promote inactive or unhealthy lifestyles nor should they show people who choose a healthy active lifestyle in a negative manner.

Meanwhile, Principle 2 stipulates that all marketing to children should not make use of children’s credulity, loyalty, vulnerability or lack of knowledge and experience or without reason, use fear to mislead or deceive them.

Guidelines supporting Principle 2 are marketing should be clearly recognisable as such by children and separated from editorial, programmes or other non-advertising content. Marketing should take into account the level of knowledge, sophistication and maturity of the intended audience.

Marketing must not suggest that consumption of the advertised food and beverages would make children feel superior, more confident, clever, popular or successful. Marketing must not suggest that non-consumption the advertised food and beverages would make children feel inferior, unpopular, lacking in courage, or loyalty.

Marketing must not mislead in relation to any nutritional value of any food and beverages. Foods high in sugar, fat and/or salt, especially those marketed to and/or favoured by children, must not be portrayed in any way that suggests they are beneficial to health.

As for Principle 3, popular personalities or characters well-known to children including child actors should not be used in marketing to promote food in such a manner as to undermine a healthy diet as defined by the Guideline on Marketing Food and Beverages in Brunei Darussalam.

Guidelines supporting Principle 3 are child actors must not be featured in advertisements related to the marketing of foods and beverages to children. Popular personalities or characters (live or animated) well-known to children must be used with due sense of social responsibility to consumers and society. Popular personalities or characters (live or animated) well known among children (including mascot) must not be used to promote or endorse unhealthy food and beverages products. Marketing must not suggest that consumption of advertised food and beverages would enable children to resemble an admired figure or role-model.

Marketing must not suggest that the non-consumption of the advertised food and beverages would imply that the children are not being loyal to the figure or role model they admire.

According to the MoH, between 1997 and 2016, the obesity rate in Brunei Darussalam more than doubled from 12 per cent to 28 per cent. The obesity rate among teenagers nears 20 per cent and the same worrying trend is seen in younger children with one-point increase in the prevalence of obesity every year since 2009.

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