BRUSSELS: Eleven multinational food giants on Tuesday proclaimed their concern for the health of Europe's children in a move intended to forestall threatened EU legislation.

The quasi-dozen (Burger King, Coca-Cola, Danone, Ferrero, General Mills, Kellogg, Kraft, Mars, Nestle, PepsiCo and Unilever) said they will cease junk food advertising targeted at children below the age of twelve across the European Union by the end of 2008.

Driven more by pragmatism than altruism, the move comes after EU health and consumer affairs commissioner Markos Kyprianou threatened legislation if voluntary controls were not put in place.

Making a virtue of necessity, the companies claim their move demonstrates a "credible" effort to limit child-targeted advertising via TV, print and the internet of foods with high sugar and fat content.

The proposal allows each company latitude in deciding which kinds of foods are inappropriate to advertise to children. But it will base its guidelines on national or international nutrition standards.

Says one of the eleven participants: "It's not a one-size fits all marketing code."

Compliance with the standards will be monitored by "independent bodies", although there is a curious silence from both sides of the fence as to the identity of these arbitrators.

Meantime, the EU is doubtless aware of the old maxim: "No one should be judge in his own cause".

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff