On September 30, 2014, the Committee on Code for Food Advertising to Children (the Committee) published the Children’s Code for Advertising Food and Beverage Products (Code) and its Interpretive Guidelines.
The Code will apply to food manufacturers, chain restaurants, beverage companies, advertising agencies and media owners with operations in Singapore.
The Code aims to reduce children’s exposure to advertisements featuring unhealthy food and beverages, and will be self-regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS), an industry group.
The Code takes effect on January 1, 2015.
The Committee is a public-private partnership set up to develop guidelines to govern food advertising targeted at children 12 years or younger and covers all forms of media in Singapore. Key points from the Code are highlighted below.
Common Nutrition Criteria
Effective from January 1, 2015, all food and beverage products promoted in marketing communications which primarily target children must meet the Common Nutrition Criteria (CNC). The CNC aims to help food manufacturers determine which food and beverage products can be advertised to children. In order to be eligible for advertising to children aged 12 years and below, a product will need to meet the thresholds for, firstly, components that need to be limited (for example, sodium and sugar) and secondly, “components to encourage” (i.e. fiber). For example, to be eligible to advertise a milk product, a serving size of 200 ml of milk must contain 170 calories or less, and 300 mg sodium or less; in addition, the milk must contain five grams or more protein. The CNC applies to both packaged food and food services. Products such as chocolates, confectionery, as well as soft drinks will not be allowed in advertisements primarily targeted at children.
Food and Beverage Marketing Communications Assessment Criteria
Food and beverage marketing communications primarily targeted at children in all forms of media will be assessed using the following criteria:
- Placement: whether the key target audience of the medium is children. For example, a TV channel that only broadcasts children’s programs or a TV channel that broadcasts children’s programs during specific times are considered as having children as their key audience; and
- Advertising Content: whether advertising tools and techniques used are designed to appeal specifically to children. Examples would include the use of licensed characters or toys; use of interactive games or contests; and overall creative execution such as the use of language and visuals that are directed primarily at children.
Media Outlets Targeting Children
The Code designates a list of radio and TV channels, print media and internet websites as media outlets it has identified as primarily targeting children. The list is subject to review periodically. The Code also prescribes restrictions on marketing food and beverage products to children in cinemas and near schools.
Implementation and Monitoring
An advertiser wishing to promote food and beverage products in marketing communications that are directed primarily at children aged 12 years and below will need to complete the Nutrition Criteria Compliance Certificate before the advertisements can be run and provide the completed certificate to the media owner. ASAS will undertake the monitoring of compliance to the Code by handling complaints and carrying out periodic spot-checks of media communications.
If an advertiser flouts the Code, ASAS can request media owners to withhold advertising space or air-time from it. ASAS may also publish the outcome of an investigation into a product that flouts the Code, potentially exposing the company to adverse publicity.
Advertisers and food manufacturers will have until the end of December, 2014 to adopt the Code.