New Code on Advertising unveiled by Public-Private Consortium in Singapore  

Singapore - New guidelines aimed at reducing children’s exposure to advertising of food and beverages high in fat, sugar and salt will take effect in Singapore from 1 January 2015.

The self-regulatory guidelines were announced by Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Health and will be incorporated into the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice (SCAP).

The ground-breaking approach was developed by a multi-sector consortium comprising stakeholders from government, the food industry, media companies and consumer groups.
  
  
Photo courtesy of HPB

The ten-month process was co-chaired by Dr Tan Sze Wee, Chairman of Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) and Dr Derrick Heng, Director at the Ministry of Health. Together, they convened a Committee of cross-sectoral experts and put in place an implementable framework to shift the balance of advertising towards foods and meals that are healthier in nutrient composition.

From 1 January 2015, all advertisers and food manufacturers must refer to a common set of nutrition criteria to determine which food and beverage products can be advertised to children.

The guidelines require all food and beverage products promoted in marketing communications targeted at children aged 12 and below to meet the Common Nutrient Criteria. The guidelines will apply to all media platforms.

Commenting on the innovative use of public-private partnerships, Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Health, said “In Singapore, the development of the food advertising guidelines was developed through a public-private partnership. The guidelines are developed for industry self-regulation. This public private partnership is preferred as it is a win-win approach for both MOH/HPB and the industry in developing robust standards in food advertising that would protect the well-being of Singapore’s children”.   

Mr Sunny Koh, Deputy President, Designate of the Singapore Manufacturing Federation said, “We applaud this positive step taken by the Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Health, who has shown that government and industry can work together to solve complex health issues.”

“This builds on the standalone Pledge made by fourteen companies back in 2012, who committed to restrict the types of products they advertise to children, based on their own companies’ nutrient criteria. Since then, SMF Members have collectively and individually taken steps to adopt voluntary measures on the marketing and advertising of food and beverages and we were actively involved in shaping the new SCAP and the Common Nutrient Criteria. This public-private initiative was successful because of the shared resources and collective inputs from all representatives. This is just the start of the journey, and we look forward to continue working with our partners in the Ministry of Health, ASAS and the Health Promotion Board to help protect and promote the health and wellness of the citizens of Singapore”.

Under the new guidelines, ASAS will undertake the monitoring of compliance to the guidelines at two levels:

  • Complaint handling - all media covered by the guidelines
  • Ex post facto compliance monitoring – Monitoring of television, print, internet and outdoors advertising will be based on periodic spot checks of samples of media communications in these areas. These media constitute more than 90 per cent of the food and beverage industry’s advertising expenditure. 

An annual ASAS compliance report will be compiled, starting end 2015.

ASAS will conduct workshops in November 2014 to provide training for key stakeholders such as brand owners, media owners, media compliance officers, creative and media agencies. The objective of the workshops is to ensure maximum compliance by building common understanding and ensuring consistent implementation of the Guidelines.

The multi-stakeholder Committee on Guidelines for Food Advertising to Children will continue to meet on a six-monthly basis for the next two years (2015-2016) to review the situation post-implementation.

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