Nigeria’s Consumer Protection Council (“CPC”) is calling for a global ban on advertising for food that is high in fat, sugar, and salt, at least with regard to children’s advertising. According to an article in Africa News, CPC is calling on the World Health Organization to support a strong international code that would ban marketing low-nutrition food to children.

CPC is seizing the opportunity of this year’s World Consumer Rights Day (March 15, 2009) to strongly urge the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health to support a ban on radio or TV advertisements promoting “unhealthy” food between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m., and no marketing of unhealthy foods using news media (such as websites, social networking sites and text messaging). In addition, the proposed code would ban promotion of unhealthy foods in schools; free gifts, toys or collectible items that appeal to children to promote unhealthy foods; and the use of celebrities, cartoon characters or competitions to market unhealthy food.

This proposal is also supported by Consumers International (“CI”), the self-proclaimed global campaigning voice for consumers.

Why this Matters: This sort of international movement has the potential to turn a spotlight on what food marketers are doing outside of the United States. Clearly, the U.S. food and beverage marketers have done more than their fair share of retooling and shifting the messages toward “better for you” food, and there is strong self-regulatory oversight provided by the CBBB’s Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (“CFBAI”). This is not satisfying the public interest groups that seek to trample commercial free speech and the responsibility of parents here in the United States, and it clearly isn’t satisfying the rest of the world. The CFBAI should engage in more international outreach so that the reactionary forces that threaten to undermine truthful and useful advertising, not to mention the sponsorship dollars for media content, do not take us down a path of unwise and unnecessary posturing, as appears to be going on in Nigeria.