In the USA, food is the top priority. The country has undertaken food marketing tactics unlike the rest of the world.
It could be argued that this contributes to America’s high obesity rate, which is at 36.2% and making it the 12th highest in the world. While the US government implemented tacticss to encourage healthier lifestyles, amongst the population, including the Let’s Move campaign, there are still marketers, which are targeting Americans with junk food at a high rate.
With other nations such as the UK now tackling junk food marketing, the US has some catching up to do. Supplier of goulottes électriques to food manufacturers, Electrix, compares the USA to the world when it comes to food marketing.
Anything goes for the USA
When we think of junk food, no doubt the USA will spring in mind for many as the biggest producer and consumer in the world. TV shows like Man v. Food have highlighted the extremes some food producers in the US go to, featuring delicacies including a 7lb burger; a 72oz steak; and the Hawaiian Mac Daddy pancake – 3lbs of pancakes loaded with sauces, blueberries, and cream.
However, there have been many US junk food adverts that have been banned across the world, with Paris Hilton’s now-infamous Carl’s Jr burger advert outlawed in New Zealand. When it comes to regulations in the USA, the Central Hudson standard is often used. This four-step test asks four questions:
- Is the ad misleading, and is the activity promoted lawful? (For example, saying that “these burgers are delicious” would not be deemed misleading.)
- Does the government have a valid reason for regulating this commercial speech? (For example, is it worth introducing regulation around junk food?)
- Will the regulation have the intended result? (For example, will introducing this legislation lower obesity?)
- Would the regulation be disproportionate to the advert? (For example, is there enough reason to warrant legislation based on the contents of this advert?)
Backed by scientific studies, many argue that more should be done to regulate junk food advertising in the USA, there has been a clear link between junk food advertising and overeating. However, because of the way the constitution operates, the high court often prioritises the protection of free and commercial speech. Currently, there are no plans to more strictly regulate food marketing in the USA, which puts it in direct contrast to some of the rest of the world’s plans.
The UK trying to stop child obesity
The UK has been one nation that’s trying to implement health tactics in recent years. From increased health initiatives that include government support for obese people to NHS public health campaigns, the UK is focusing on getting its people to a healthy weight.
Alongside this there has been a ban on junk food advertising online and before 9pm on TV. Deemed one of the toughest restrictions on food marketing in the world, the ban is scheduled to come into play by the end of 2021 and will apply to the advertising of foods that are high in fat, sugar, and salt (HFSS). It’s estimated over £600 million is spent on food advertising online and on TV in the UK, so this will have a far-reaching impact.
This legislation has been implemented to help prevent childhood obesity, with shocking stats indicating that young people are exposed to 15 billion junk food adverts online a year. The UK was the first nation to restrict the times in which food advertising was shown in order to protect children, as well as prohibiting it from channels aimed at kids, and this ban strengthens its position in this area.
France needs to implement more regulations
Our country seems to be following the US more than the UK when it comes to our approach to junk food. A 2020 study found that in Europe, French children are exposed to junk food advertising the most. While a 2003 regulation required junk food advertising to include a health message, it’s clear more can be done to improve food marketing in France. Currently, junk food adverts must include one of the following lines:
- “Avoid snacking between meals”
- “Avoid eating too much salt, sugar, or fat”
- “Take regular exercise”
- “Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day”
In 2018, there was aa proposed ban on advertising junk food to children under 16, which was not brought in through too much criticism. However, Sante Publique France, the publisher of the study, said the results should push the French government to take more action on food marketing to protect young children from obesity.
In 2020, a petition was for stricter regulations on junk food advertising after a UFC-Que Choisir study found that 90% of adverts aimed at children were promoting foods high in fat, salt, and sugar.
Germany implements tougher regulations
Germany is like the UK in regards to their food. The country had introduced regulations on advertising junk food to children. Some restrictions were already in place, and the age covered by the existing code has been raised from 12 to 14. Advertisers of unhealthy foods are no longer allowed to attribute “positive nutritional properties” to their products, in order to prevent presenting them as healthy. The restrictions have also been extended to video platforms including TikTok and YouTube.
In June 2021, The current German Advertising Standards Council Code of Conduct on All Forms of Commercial Communication for Foods and Beverages, had went live, containing updated regulations on food marketing. Some of the things food advertisers cannot do include:
- Undermine a healthy lifestyle or a balanced, healthy diet
- Encourage excessive consumption of unhealthy foods
- Abuse the consumers’ confidence in the quality of the foods
- Encourage overconsumption of foods that have a negative nutritional or physiological impact
These regulations give a clear indication that public health is important in Germany.
The USA is known for excess, and the same can be said about its food marketing. Many of its regulations are voluntary, while American courts have historically been reluctant to implement tougher restrictions. The UK and Germany are leading the way in regulations on junk food advertising aimed at children, and there are renewed calls in France for tougher restrictions as the country is lagging behind its European counterparts.