Unilever, maker of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, to stop child ads this year

Feb. 12 (UPI) — Consumer goods manufacturer Unilever announced Wednesday it will stop marketing to children under the age of 12 by the end of this year — a shift in policy that’s a result of rising obesity rates, the company said.

Unilever said it will no longer advertise foods and beverages to the under-12 age group via traditional media and social media platforms. It said the plan is to implement “strict controls” on ad placement and content.

“The World Health Organization names childhood obesity as one of the most serious public health issues of the 21st century,” Unilever said in a statement. “It’s a key reason why Unilever is committing to new principles on marketing and advertising foods and beverages to children.”

Unilever’s portfolio includes popular brands like Ben & Jerry’s and Klondike ice cream. Another brand, Wall’s, will be “responsibly made” for kids and contain no more than 110 calories and 12 grams of sugar, the company said.

“Our promise is a genuine commitment to make and market products to children responsibly,” said Matt Close, executive vice president of Unilever’s global ice cream unit. “It is the promise of better ice cream and healthier, happier children. Both now and in the future.”

The Better Business Bureau’s Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, initiated in 2006, calls for companies to use advertising to help promote healthy dietary choices and healthy lifestyles, for children under the age of 12.

“While it remains the primary responsibility of parents to guide their children’s behavior in these areas, industry members are voluntarily pursuing this initiative as a means of assisting parents in their efforts,” the initiative says.

The WHO said in 2018 global childhood obesity has risen to an estimated 124 million and another 216 million are overweight. Researchers said in December nearly half of all Americans will be obese within the next decade.

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