A set of seven principles (the ‘Sydney Principles’) was developed by an International Obesity Taskforce (IOTF) Working Group to guide action on changing food and beverage marketing practices that target children. The aim of the present communication is to present the Sydney Principles and report on feedback received from a global consultation (November 2006 to April 2007) on the Principles.
The Principles state that actions to reduce marketing to children should: (i) support the rights of children; (ii) afford substantial protection to children; (iii) be statutory in nature; (iv) take a wide definition of commercial promotions; (v) guarantee commercial-free childhood settings; (vi) include cross-border media; and (vii) be evaluated, monitored and enforced.
The draft principles were widely disseminated and 220 responses were received from professional and scientific associations, consumer bodies, industry bodies, health professionals and others. There was virtually universal agreement on the need to have a set of principles to guide action in this contentious area of marketing to children. Apart from industry opposition to the third principle calling for a statutory approach and several comments about the implementation challenges, there was strong support for each of the Sydney Principles. Feedback on two specific issues of contention related to the age range to which restrictions should apply (most nominating age 16 or 18 years) and the types of products to be included (31 % nominating all products, 24 % all food and beverages, and 45 % energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods and beverages).
The Sydney Principles, which took a children’s rights-based approach, should be used to benchmark action to reduce marketing to children. The age definition for a child and the types of products which should have marketing restrictions may better suit a risk-based approach at this stage. The Sydney Principles should guide the formation of an International Code on Food and Beverage Marketing to Children.