Fighting against the impact of “Big Food” advertising on children in Colombia

Children have been seen as a lucrative market niche for big food companies responsible for producing ultra-processed edible products, i.e. those with high concentration of sugar, salt and fat. Such products and also sweetened drinks have been one of the main reasons for the growing numbers of diabetes and obesity among children and teenagers around the world. In Colombia,
15.7% of the children aged 5-17 years are overweight; the rates in some provinces such as San Andres Islands are close to 30% putting close to similar rates as Mexico, the country known for having the highest rates of child obesity in the world.
The obesity pandemic among children has expanded at a very fast pace in Colombia: companies see children and teenagers as main consumers of nutrient-poor products. 96% of all advertisement targeted to children in one of Colombian major TV channels was on junk food in a sample done in 2012. Corporations target young audiences through aggressive advertising campaigns, especially via television, the internet and billboards close to schools.
The Colombian parents association “Red Papaz” and FIAN Colombia in cooperation with Educar Consumidores, Vital Strategies and Global Health Advocacy Incubator have therefore developed a broad campaign in the country called “Do not eat more lies; do not give them to your children”. This campaign highlights 1) that children are not just consumers but first and foremost rights holders under special protection in the Colombian constitution; 2) that the obesity pandemic is not about wrong individual life-style choices but rather the result of systemic choices favoring a corporate diet. In this sense, the campaign urges the Colombian state to mandatorily ban advertisement of junk food for children and to transform the existing agro-food system towards agro-ecology and food sovereignty.