The WHO would like to regulate what American kids can see on TV

I keep waiting to read a story about the World Health Organization where they’re actually doing something productive and helping people on issues of, well… health. Sadly, when they pop up in the news they seem to be either trying to control tax policy in various countries or regulate human affairs from some lofty, international platform. They’re back in the news again this month, but it appears that I’ll be left waiting yet again.

WHO: Don’t Let Them Market Cake

The health arm of the United Nations does not want companies advertising cake, ice cream, or ice pops to children.

The World Health Organization (WHO) developed a “European nutrient profile” to be used by countries in order to ban the marketing of desserts. The “Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity Programme in the Division of Noncommunicable Diseases and the Lifecourse at the WHO Regional Office for Europe” developed the model.

“This model is designed for use by governments for the purposes of restricting food marketing to children,” the report said. “When determining whether a food product may or may not be marketed to children, a government (or food company) should take the following steps.”

The model then divides foods into 17 different categories, detailing whether or not they are allowed to be advertised to children.

They included cheese on the list unless the cheese is lean enough to make the cut. (No pun intended.) But in the end, it’s all about control. The WHO would love to move from a global advisory role to being an actual regulator, a move which would leave the FDA looking like a benevolent, freedom loving shop. Another example:

“Despite progress in some countries, government action to restrict such marketing remains less than optimal,” the group’s announcement said. That is simply unacceptable, and WHO officials hope that by taking care of all the actual work in deciding what foods to ban, national governments will more easily follow their lead.

One of the chief goals of this initiative is abolishing food marketing towards children. This would supposedly eliminate the temptation to ask for and consume any non-approved meals. Of course, this explanation doesn’t say a word about all the scenes in television, movies, music videos and children’s programming where people are shown eating. I suppose we’ll have to sort through everything in the international video vault and dredge out the instances where people are in restaurants or diners. (That may have to start with When Harry Met Sally. I think Harry was eating some sort of fattening sandwich in that one.)

In the end, this comes down to a demand to be able to regulate the advertising industry and how everyone in the food related sector markets their product line. We really have enough regulation already, what with the FDA and all of its sister outfits monitoring what can or can not be advertised on the small screen. The spectacular failure of these regulatory efforts speaks to the fact that parents are the only ones who can effectively guide their offspring through the perils of life, particularly in the digital age. To even consider turning over such authority to an entity outside of the United States such as the WHO is suicidal.

Is this likely to happen? I’m still enough of an optimist to say no. But we need to remain aware of the WHO’s activities and keep an eye on our own elected representatives all the same.