Publishers Fight Proposed European Commission Food Ad Rules

21 July 2003

Concerned at proposed new rules designed to ensure food advertisements prove any health-related claims, the European Publishers Council has invoked ‘the freedom of the press’ as a defence against the European Commission’s proposal.

The mooted requirement that food ads furnish proof for health claims comes in the wake of EC's recent crackdown on misleading food packaging labels. But, claims the EPC, the latest Brussels bombshell would restrict both the free market and democracy.

“Advertising, like political communication, is based on informing and giving people choices. No one would consider the idea of obliging political parties to scientifically check and prove political slogans such as 'creating a secure future',” said an EPC spokesman. Such a requirement, added the spoke, would not only restrict advertising but democracy and the free market as well.

According to EPC chairman Francisco Pinto Balsemao: “This is a draconian proposal for legislation restricting advertising, which undermines our ability to fund independent media in our free market.”

He continued: “It seems that yet again the freedom to advertise is seriously under threat from EU measures proposed in the name of consumer protection.” Self-regulatory mechanisms were already in place to prevent or rule against misleading or bogus claims, Balsemao insisted.

EC health protection and consumer affairs commissioner David Byrne, concerned at the growing tide of obesity, wants to see the elimination of food advertising claims that cannot be substantiated or are not “clear, accurate or meaningful”.

Food manufacturers argue that such rules would restrict consumers' choice. Consumer groups, however, don’t share this concern and have welcomed the EC proposals.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff