On 12 March, Singapore Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim announced that an agreement had been reached with the food industry on a new Code on Food Marketing to Children. The Code, to be published later this year when final details have been ironed out, is a major achievement for public-private partnership in Singapore. FIA asked Rocco Renaldi from Landmark Asia to explain the process.
Discussions between the food industry and the Singapore Ministry of Health, Health Promotion Board and Advertising Standards Authority (ASAS) have been ongoing for approximately four years. In 2012, this yielded the launch of the Singapore Advertising to Children Pledge by fourteen leading international companies, under the banner of FIA. The Pledge was well received by Government and consumers in Singapore and signalled the formation of a public-private partnership to look at the delivery of a broader Code that would be comprehensive in scope, applicable to all advertisers in Singapore, and based on uniform nutrition criteria, which would distinguish between products that may and may not be marketed to children.
A multi-stakeholder dialogue and working groups comprising the Singapore Ministry of Health, Health Promotion Board, ASAS, FIA, the Singapore Manufacturing Federation (SMF) and the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) was set up in August 2013. The new Code on Food Marketing to Children agreed by the multi-stakeholder group will be embedded into the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice and will come into force in January 2015. It will limit marketing communications to children aged twelve and under, based on a set of uniform nutrition criteria. These are being developed by a technical industry working group, under the aegis of FIA and SMF and will be agreed with the Health Promotion Board by June 2014. Inspired by the high-successful EU Pledge, the Singapore nutrition criteria will be adapted to reflect local dietary needs and guidelines.
The new Code will cover marketing communications across all media, with specific exceptions for on-pack and in-store communications, as well as sponsorship. Marketing communications to children are defined as those placed on media or in programming that is of primary appeal to children, and which is designed to appeal primarily to children by way of its content. It further enshrines a set of rules for responsible food and beverage marketing communications to children, inspired by international best practice, concerning for example the portrayal of portion sizes and appropriate eating behaviours, as well as the responsible use of premiums and endorsement by personalities that are primarily popular among children. Interpretative guidelines will further be developed, to assist ASAS in determining under what specific circumstances different marketing communications should be considered to be addressed primarily to children. Finally, an industry-funded monitoring programme will be put in place, so as to verify levels of compliance on a regular basis.
While agreement on uniform nutrition criteria remains to be achieved and will be essential to underpin the new rules, the agreement on the Code is already a major achievement and a win-win-win for government, industry and consumers in Singapore. Comprehensive and robust, yet proportionate and workable, the Code will ensure that Singapore policy is aligned with the objectives of the World Health Organization Recommendations on food and beverage marketing to children, while also establishing a level-playing field for advertisers in Singapore. Landmark Asia is proud of having been able to support SMF and FIA, in close collaboration with WFA, in securing this outcome.
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