Representatives of the food sector in Belgium have signed the Belgian Pledge: a promise to restrict their advertising to children under 12.
The Pledge involves 52 food sellers, traders, caterers and restaurant chains, as well as the food industry federation Fevia, the retail federation Comeos and the Belgian Advertising Union (UBA).
The names of those involved include some household names like Coca-Cola, Carrefour, Colruyt, Delhaize, Ferrero, Ikea, Kellogg’s, Lotus, McDonald’s, Mondelez and Nestlé.
The Pledge is the third of its kind. The first in 2012 was concerned with advertising on TV, children’s websites and in schools. The second in 2017 extended the restriction to social media, mobile advertising, SMS marketing and games.
At present, according to the three federations, almost all companies who advertise food products to children have signed up. A reporting page at the pledge website shows, the industry says, that participants are keeping to the voluntary rules.
Under the new Pledge 3.0, advertising and promotions aimed at children are only allowed if the products meet strict nutritional standards (pdf), while producers can only advertise products where the levels of fat, sugar and salt are limited. The use of online influencers to market products to children will be limited.
“The Belgian Pledge is a self-regulating initiative, but is not without obligation. Signatories have their commitments checked annually by independent partners.”
In January, the industry will start testing a complaints procedure. Complaints will be referred to the Jury on Ethical Practices in Advertising (JEP) for their opinion, which will then be published on the website of the JEP as well as the Pledge website.
“Healthy food is one of the building blocks of good health. I am delighted that the food industry is thinking along and is also taking initiatives for responsible marketing to children under the age of 12,” said federal health minister Frank Vandenbroucke.
“We still have a long way to go, but it is hopeful that we have found a partner in each other to look for a more healthy and balanced diet for all our children.”
“When we launched the Belgian Pledge in 2012, Facebook was trending, followed by Instagram and today young people are massively on TikTok,” said Bart Buysse, CEO of Fevia.
“The social media use by young people is evolving at lightning speed and the Belgian Pledge is also evolving. Our self-regulation responds more quickly than legislation could and in practice ensures responsible marketing to young people.”