Oxford University Press (OUP)
Overweight and obesity in children is rising at the global level, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Among the causes for this increase is the marketing of unhealthy food and beverage products, which affects children’s food preferences, purchasing requests and consumption patterns. The need to address harmful marketing to children has been recognized at the World Health Organization, with Member States having agreed in 2010 to implement a set of recommendations to restrict such practices. Concurrently, there is an increasing understanding of unhealthy food and malnutrition as human rights concerns. This paper explores the potential of existing legally and non-legally binding human rights instruments for accelerating the implementation of comprehensive restrictions to reduce harmful marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children. Four relevant themes were identified in existing human rights instruments: (i) the best interest of the child should be considered above all other interests; (ii) the rights to health and adequate food cannot be realized without supportive healthy environments; (iii) children should be protected from economic exploitation; and (iv) the persuasive marketing of unhealthy food and beverage products is explicitly recognized as a threat to the rights to food and health. In conclusion, existing human rights instruments could be harnessed to advance public health measures to restrict the marketing of unhealthy food and beverage products to children. Policy-makers and advocates should draw from these instruments and refer to State’s obligations within international and domestic human rights law to strengthen their efforts to restrict harmful marketing practices to children.