BRUSSELS: Eleven of the world's top food and beverage brands, including Coca-Cola and McDonald's, have outlined a package of measures to enhance responsible marketing to children, the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) has announced.

As members of the International Food & Beverage Alliance (IFBA), their CEOs have sent a joint letter to Dr Margaret Chan, the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), to restate their commitments on health and wellness.

Recognising that greater effort must be made to achieve global health goals, they went on to outline what new action they will be taking to promote healthy lifestyles, improve consumer information, and strengthen responsible marketing to children.

The companies concerned include Coca-Cola, Ferrero, General Mills, Grupo Bimbo, Kellogg, Mars, McDonald's, Mondelēz International, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever.

Already committed to a policy of only advertising to children under 12 years of age products that meet specific nutrition criteria on TV, in print and online, the CEOs said they will expand this approach to cover almost all media.

The new policy will cover radio, cinema, direct marketing, mobile, SMS, interactive games, DVD/CD-ROM and product placement.

Furthermore, when marketing to children under 12, all marketing techniques – such as licensed characters, movie tie-ins and the use of celebrities – will have to comply with "better-for-you" nutritional criteria.

A third key change is that the companies will seek to harmonise nutrition criteria, on a regional or national basis, to provide a strict common standard, as they have done in the European Union, the US and a number of other countries.

"The major food and beverage companies have strict controls in place on how they communicate with younger audiences," said Stephan Loerke, managing director of the WFA.

"This latest strengthening of the IFBA global policy demonstrates the extent to which IFBA members are taking their responsibilities seriously when it comes to marketing to children," he added.

The development comes amid mounting official concern that brands and advertisers should do more to tackle obesity and other related problems.

For example, Public Health England, a UK government agency, recently launched an investigation into the promotion of fizzy drinks, and other products considered to be unhealthy, and said it would consider the case for tighter controls on advertising.

Data sourced from WFA, IFBA; additional content by Warc staff