No chocolate or ice cream ads for kids as Spain tackles obesity

FILE PHOTO: A chocolate con churros is seen at the Chocolat bar in Madrid

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain will ban advertising of unhealthy foods and drinks like chocolate, biscuits and ice cream aimed at children to help fight obesity in young people, the consumer affairs minister said on Thursday.

"Our children are very vulnerable to advertising and it is our obligation to protect them," Minister Alberto Garzon said on Twitter.

He said the regulation would ban the advertising of five categories of products to minors, regardless of their nutritional content.

That list includes chocolate, sweets and energy bars as well as cakes, sweet biscuits, juices, ice cream and energy drinks.

Other food products will also face regulation if they exceed certain limits for saturated fats, sugars and salt content.

Nine out of ten food advertisements targeted at children are for unhealthy products, according to consumer association OCU.

The move, which still needs cabinet approval, will affect ads aimed at children under 16 on television and radio, in cinemas and on the internet, including on social networks and mobile apps.

According to the Spanish Agency for Nutrition and Food Safety, 40.6% of Spanish children between six and nine are overweight and 17.3% qualify as obese.

The Spanish Federation of Food and Drink Industries (FIAB) said it was "surprised and outraged" by the move, as the sector has been working with the ministry for a year to update ethical practices in advertising.

"We believe that food and drink manufacturers are being gratuitously and unjustifiably attacked," said FIAB Director General Mauricio Garcia de Quevedo in a statement.

(Reporting by Emma Pinedo; Editing by Nathan Allen and Nick Macfie)