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Gov’t, UCC Sued for Failure to Protect Children from Unhealthy Food Advertisement

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David Kabanda from Dalumba Advocates, which is representing CEFROHT, says manufacturing and advertising firms are playing on the ignorance of children to make profits, which may leave the children unhealthy.
According to David Kabanda, his clients are suing UCC for allowing the broadcasting of advertisements that are harmful to child health

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The Center for Food and Adequate Living Rights-CEFROHT has jointly sued government and Uganda Communications Commission-UCC for alleged failure to stop the broadcast of adverts threatening the health of children. 

CEFROHT is a not for profit human rights organization based in Gayaza that was founded in 2018 to promote social justice in food systems and health through the use of legal tools such as strategic litigation. 

David Kabanda from Dalumba Advocates, which is representing CEFROHT, says manufacturing and advertising firms are playing on the ignorance of children to make profits, which may leave the children unhealthy.

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He says that it is as a result of this that they have decided to invoke article 50(2) of the Ugandan constitution to sue government and UCC for failure to act in the interest of the minors. Article 50(2) of the constitution provides that “any person or organization may bring an action against the violation of another person's or group's human rights.’

Kabanda says that something needs to be done because companies are promoting unhealthy products and ignoring healthy ones. “There are sodas that are sugar free that would be a better alternative for children but these sodas are rarely advertised. They don’t get as much airtime on TV as other beverages that are unhealthy,” Kabanda said.

According to the Health ministry, consumption of processed foods such as sugar and junk like chips and chicken has led to a surge in Non Communicable Diseases such as high blood pressure, cancer and diabetes. It is estimated that over 30,000 people die due to NCD related diseases annually in the country.

Kabada says that his clients want court to ban the marketing, broadcasting or advertisements of unhealthy foods for children in Uganda. In addition, they want government to pass a regulation on front nutrition labeling on all foods on the market, which will make it easier for consumers to know the nutritional content in what they buy or consume.

CEFROHT wants UCC to ban all unhealthy food advertisements and programme sponsorship both on broadcast and online media. It also wants the Communication regulator to make it illegal for companies to use children in the promotion and advertisement of processed foods and sugar-sweetened beverages in the country.

Godfrey Mutabazi, the Executive Director of UCC, told URN that his office wasn’t aware of any legal suit of this nature but none the less said they will handle it. “I have not seen it and do not know what they are saying but from what you have said, it looks like those people don’t know what they are doing. But let me look at it because am surprised that someone can even bring such a suit. Whichever way, we are always on top of everything and we shall be able to fight it to the end and destroy it completely,” Mutabazi said.

The suit is expected to come up in the Civil Division of the High Court on March 18, 2020.

In 2017, Coca-Cola and American Beverage Association were sued by Praxis Project- a non-profit group for deceptive and misleading marketing of sugar sweetened beverages. The beverage company was accused of misleading consumers about the health implications of consuming their products that are linked to type 2 diabetes and obesity.