Coca-Cola, Pepsi and other soft drinks manufacturers agreed Tuesday to end the targeting of young children in their marketing campaigns in Europe as part of a European Union drive to fight rising obesity among youngsters. The decision was announced by UNESDA, a federation of drinks makers in Europe that includes Coca-Cola Co. Pepsi Beverages Europe, Unilever and Cadbury Schweppes.
"This is a significant move by the industry," said Stephen Kehoe, vice president for public and government affairs at PepsiCo Europe.
"This is the first time ever that the major beverage producers in Europe come together to jointly define their commitments related to responsible sales and marketing practices," he said in an UNESDA statement.
The companies commit not to place advertisements targeting children under 12 and to halt any sales in primary schools unless requested by school authorities.
In secondary schools, they agree that sodas should be offered only alongside water, juices and other calorie free drinks and in unbranded vending machines that promote healthy diets and lifestyles. Drinks will also be offered in "appropriate container sizes, allowing for portion control."
Additionally, the producers agreed to improve nutritional information on drinks packaging and increase the range of low-calorie drinks.
The decision came as the EU prepares new measures to fight a growing obesity problem. "The European nonalcoholic beverage industry is determined to play its part," said Dominique Reiniche, president of UNESDA and of the European Union Group of the Coca-Cola Company.
EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou recently warned that obesity had become one of the leading causes of avoidable death in Europe with more than 400,000 children estimated to become overweight every year.
He recommended that the food industry regulates itself by cutting back on advertising to children, reports the AP.