Is the Timing Right for an International Code of Marketing of Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages to Children

Rachel Irwin

This article addresses recent calls for the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to develop a ‘Code of Practice on the Marketing of Unhealthy Food and Beverages to Children.’ The article argues that such suggestions ignore the development of WHO’s Set of Recommendations on the Marketing of Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages to Children and misrepresent its scope. The recommendations, adopted by the World Health Assembly in 2010, aims ‘to reduce the impact on children of marketing of foods high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars, or salt.’ In light of the current WHO reform process and financial constraints, the fact that WHO member states explicitly chose to develop a ‘Set of Recommendations’ instead of a ‘Code,’ and the similarities between a code and recommendations, this article questions the feasibility and added value of re-opening the issue. Instead it recommends that the Secretariat be supported in their mandate to provide assistance to member states in implementing the existing WHO Set of Recommendations.