SAN JOSE – The United Nations Children’s Fund, or UNICEF, urged Latin American countries on Tuesday to regulate advertisement of food and drinks that encourage unhealthy eating among children.
A joint exploratory study by UNICEF and the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama said television marketing and social networks influence the consumption of products that can cause obesity and chronic diseases.
“We have to try that this advertisement reaches not children but adults. Obesity is multi-causal, we have to work with the parents so they consume healthy products, and reiterate the importance of breastfeeding,” said Marcelo Ber, specialist in Social Responsibility of UNICEF for Latin America and the Caribbean.
UNICEF data indicate 7 percent of under-five children in Latin America are overweight as are 19 percent of children between 5 and 11 years, and 17 percent between the ages 12 and 19.
Also, 37 percent of children aged 5 to 11 years and 36 percent of the population between 12 and 19 years of age are obese.
The research, conducted between September and December 2014, analyzed regulations to control this kind of advertising in 32 countries in Latin America, and concluded only 10 of them, including Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Brazil, Paraguay, Colombia and Argentina, have regulations in place to check such promotion.
Moreover, in a sample of 18 companies from Argentina, Costa Rica and Mexico, 58 websites, 83 Facebook pages, 32 Twitter accounts and 29 YouTube channels were identified as media being used to promote products and brands among children and adolescents.
Around 90 percent of the promotion in Mexico use cartoons to attract children, in Costa Rica, 88 percent contained images of children, and in Argentina 54 percent had symbols related to sports, music and children.
In addition, schools kiosks in the countries mentioned stocked sweet or savory biscuits and cakes.
Eight out of the 12 schools evaluated offered sugary soft drinks, six offered ice cream, and only two distributed juices to the children.