Call for pre-watershed ban on junk food advertising

Burger and chips Research found children were still exposed to adverts for foods high in fat, salt or sugar

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Television adverts for food high in fat, sugar and salt should not be shown before the 9pm watershed, according to Scotland's public health minister.

Michael Matheson has written to UK Health Secretary Andrew Lansley asking if he would support a UK-wide ban.

It follows recent research which suggests children are still exposed to the same level of junk food advertising despite tighter regulations.

Health groups say further action is needed to tackle the problem.

Broadcasting regulator Ofcom brought in a ban on advertising foods high in fat, salt or sugar during children's programming.

But a study by academics at Newcastle University found 6.1% of adverts seen by youngsters were about junk food before the ban, with the figure at 7% after the ban.

They said young people do not just watch children's programmes, to which the rules apply.

Mr Matheson now wants the regulations to go further.

Start Quote

The media has an important role to play in forming attitudes to nutrition”

End Quote Dr Sally Winning BMA Scotland

He said: "According to the UN and Ofcom studies, the restrictions brought in by Ofcom have been adhered to by children's channels and broadcasters showing programmes specifically aimed at children.

"However, a loophole exists that allows HFSS (high in fat, sugar and salt) food adverts to feature during programmes with a high child audience such as soaps and talent shows.

"That's why we want to introduce a pre-watershed ban and are looking to the UK government to support such a move which would carry the additional benefit of encouraging our partners in the food industry to reformulate their produce to lower salt, fat and sugar content."

Scotland's public health minister said such a move would require "co-operation" between the UK and Scottish governments.

He added: "Broadcast advertising influences the choices made by children and can shape their attitudes to food as they grow into adulthood.

"Tackling obesity and encouraging people to make healthier life choices is one of the most important things we can do to improve the health of our nation."

Further consideration

Jane Landon, deputy chief executive of the National Heart Forum, welcomed the call for a pre-watershed ban.

She said: "The existing rules have delivered protections in principle but not in practice."

Dr Sally Winning, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association Scotland, said: "The media has an important role to play in forming attitudes to nutrition and there is scope to harness this potential and further regulate its more harmful impact.

"Whilst the advertising of unhealthy foodstuffs, including inappropriate sponsorship of programmes and events targeted at school children, is already regulated, it should be noted that many of the TV programmes most watched by children are not children's programmes, and so further consideration must be given to addressing this."

Scottish Labour's health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie accused the SNP of "picking a fight" with Westminster.

She said: "At a time when we have lost 2,000 nurses, our hospitals are crumbling and we don't have enough blankets for elderly patients, I am amazed that the SNP government is picking a fight with the UK government about what time we can show McDonald's adverts on television.

"This is the same government which rejected my colleague Richard Simpson's Trans-fats Bill, something they did have the power to do.

"The SNP's obsession with constitutional politics knows no bounds and is distracting from the real problems in our health service."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    The ban may have a slight impact but health warnings displayed with every ad could be a better idea - particularly aiming to show obesity and how dangerous this is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    I'm doing a project on junk food. I agree with banning junk food adverts. Children watching the adverts of junk food crave for that type of thing. 10 years ago children were slim now they are obese. Children all over the world are eating a lot of junk food!!! So I think junk food adverts should be banned until after 9:00 at night.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    I completely dissagree .Parents have the responsibility to stop their kids from watching these adverts if they want to. Parents should also see the amount of food their kids eat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    this is for project. I think it is the parents fault because they are the ones who take the children to the macD. Parents should be more responsible.
    Because they don't care about their childrens health.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    Wy bother when Mc'donalds are sponsoring the olympics?
    Can anybody else see the double standards here?

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    Yeah . . but it tastes nice.

    when you're out for mothers day lunch today, bear in mind that fillet steak and thick cut chips are just as unhealthy as a Big mac and fries.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    What is it about this country that makes the government think that banning an advert stops people using a product. We dont have adverts for alcohol or tobacco now, does that mean nobody drinks or smokes!

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    Right now I'm in Middle East. I am doing a project about junk food. I think junk food advertising shouldn't be banned. If junk food adverts were banned, children wouldn't know what's the different between junk food and healthy food. They should be educated about a balanced diet. Besides, children are old enough to decide whether junk food is good or not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    I think junk food advertising should be banned because it is often argued that eating junk food is unhealthy.I think that it can cause diseases. Parents say that the children have right to choose, but sometimes they can be irresponsible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    Nothing like a portion of junk and a bottle of binge.

  • Comment number 94.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    88, chach4;

    a) nobody is talking about banning junk food, just regulating advertising.

    b) a 'balanced diet' does not mean a certain ration of nutritious food to crap.

    c) children do not 'need to have something unhealty'. That is a dangerous way of thinking, that to be appetising food has to be bad for you. Just goes to show what crap you eat at maccy d's.

    lesson over.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    Just plain silly to think moving ads to post 9pm will affect how children see or experience junk food.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Despite increased awareness , campaigns for healthy eating , better labelling of food and better food in schools it saddens me to see a growing nation in terms of girth . I would be happy to take a tougher stance , a nation of fatties just creates many problems not least higher NHS costs .So yes to advertising bans and also yes to control over alcohol costs .

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    And the first ones to pass the law are the ones which break it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    I am doing a project about junk food. I think that junk food shoudn't be banned because it can be a kind of encouragement to do better. like, if you take a little amount of junk food before or after excersising, you have more energy to do better. Also children are old enough to make their own decision.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    Right now i'm in Dubai. I'm given a project on junk food. According to this news junk food advertising should be banned but i think it would be totally unfair because children need freedom. It would be a nightmare to children by not having junk food. Children need to have something unhealthy as well to have a balanced diet. So in conclusion junk food should not banned totally. Thats my opinion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    With suitable legislation, "junk food" could be made wholesome.

    If ready prepared items from pizzas to pies had laws limiting harmful substances, for example having a restricted salt limit and having defined portion sizes with defined nutritional content, then "junk food" would cease to be "junk" and become healthy.

    Junk food adicts would be pleased - and look at what it would save the NHS!

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    Lots of comments about how blocking promotion of junk food to kids undermines parental responsibility. The opposite is true. A ban would help parents fulfil their responsibility. It's like cartoons where someone has a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. Let's get rid of the devil and let parents do the angel shift.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    The problem with junk foods is preservatives added to the food to make it last longer, and therefore making it more difficult to biologically breakdown. We as humans have not had time to evolve a new way of breaking down these preservatives and other additives in our digestive systems so we can not properly process the food we eat.
    We need to ban preservatives and promote real food sources.


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