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November 30, 2022

Marketing Exposed: A Global Public Health Threat for Food Policy

The Global Health Advocacy Incubator launched its third annual industry report, Marketing Exposed: A Global Public Health Threat for Food Policy, on November 30. Marketing Exposed focuses on how marketing practices of ultra-processed food and beverage products (UPPs) are affecting human and planetary health while targeting vulnerable populations and serving as corporate washing practices that allow the industry to have privileged spaces in policy-making tables. The report also seeks to expose common industry trends through samples selected from around the world, as these practices are mirrored in diverse countries and regions.

Marketing Exposed found four specific reasons why ultra-processed product marketing threatens public health and requires urgent action from governments:

Reason #1 – It generates a harmful domino effect by creating unhealthy food environments, burdening countries with sicker populations, and other negative results.

Reason #2 – It extends beyond advertising, promotion and sponsorship to include corporate washing that allows the industry to establish itself at the policymaking table while influencing       vulnerable populations.

Reason #3 – It’s aggressive, insidious and everywhere: it enables the industry to influence what consumers eat, displacing traditional foods from different cultures.

Reason #4 – It puts children and adolescents at risk of becoming victims of commercial exploitation due to the corporate saturation of unhealthy products in the market.

At the report launch webinar, Alejandro Calvillo from El Poder del Consumidor (Mexico), Jeffrey Chester from the Center for Digital Democracy (USA) and Petronell Kruger from PRICELESS (South Africa) discussed potential policy solutions and approaches to the marketing problem identified in the report.

Petronell noted that it’s critical that policy solutions to regulate unhealthy food marketing can be proven, are evidence-based and can demonstrate that it is the necessary step to improve public health. Based on her experience in South Africa, if a policy fits these criteria, then it will likely be successfully passed and implemented.

The report calls for governments to implement strong digital marketing regulations.  Jeffrey from the Center of Digital Democracy emphasized that the UPP industry’s use of advertising technology (adtech) tools to collect and analyze data equip them to understand how to more effectively reach and influence the public. Therefore, the industry is opening itself up to regulation of these practices as well as public shaming from consumers.

Deceptive marketing tactics are commonly used by the UPP industry, especially when tied to its corporate social responsibility practices. Alejandro from El Poder del Consumidor showed how using legal strategies can be an effective tool when advocating for stricter regulation against the UPP industry and its deceptive tactics.

To find out more about the report’s key findings and panelists talking about their experiences with the UPP industry’s deceptive marketing tactics, view our webinar here:




Read the full report here.

Check out the report’s microsite for a brief overview of the report, which includes the problem identified in the report, how governments and CSOs can take action against it and some examples of the industry’s marketing practices around the world.

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