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 184.

    Advertising is a massive source of income for TV channels who need the revenue to keep their staff in emplyment. I don't think banning these ads makes any difference. Children of the cartoon watching age don't simply see the ad and venture off to McD's etc. They need money and/or a parent, and the parent decideds what is good or not for their child...if it's the odd McD's treat then so be it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    I spent decades believing that junk foods "taste good", then I switched to a healthy lifestyle 2 years ago. I've finally realised how truly disgusting the salty-sugary-greasy rubbish actually tastes; these days even eating a small amount turns my stomach.
    Its a shame more isn't being done to wake people up to the joys of healthy eating. Most people just need some encouragement and inspiration.

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    Corporate chocolate sewerage for breakfast. Yum

    Fizzy drinks are another health nightmare for kids

    We had to ban a nephew from drinking them because whenever he turned up at the house with a fizzy pop drink he was hyperactive and aggressive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    168. Sovereign Citizen "why some can't get that into their heads"
    Because fat people were visible, easy targets and already stigmatised, hence the public were more receptive to the message that 'fat is bad' than 'thin people can be unhealthy too'. Fat is also easier to quantify than overall health. Consider proposed police tests which confuse fitness with weight; many active people have high BMIs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    Define junk food. The burgers I make are from 5% fat beef mince pressed - that is it. That is not junk food. My local pub does the same. What is important is to label correctly, so if a burger is 25% fat, high salt and rusk it should be clear even before it is taken off the shelf (or ordered).

    I don't think it is 'fast food' outlets that are the real problem - it is the 'ready-meal' market.

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    Won`t work if parents don`t say no to their children, and it`s not like they`re not exposed to junk food outside of tv anyway. It`s down to parents to exercise their authority.

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    It's not just junk food it is all processed food which many households live off, plus things like the fry up and endless chip pan. Sometimes a maccie D's is probably more healthy! But people are lazy and take the easy way out with food, plus poor education about cooking and food and no money are all impacts. 99 pence burger anyone?

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    To those saying tax junk food it all ready is taxed if you get from a takeaway by 20% VAT. You also have to have some fat salt and sugar in moderation in your diet. Even if you are diabetic you are allowed some sugar in your diet. If you took notice to tose who say this is good and this is bad your would be changing your diet every week.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    I don't mind when people are obese, it's when they are obtuse that you have a problem.Obtusity is just as big a problem as obesity. And it's when you yell "nanny state, nanny state" at every opportunity when someone tries and tell you something that you need a nanny state.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    Best to ban the food altogether.

    Meat slurry would be a good start - that would put an immediate end to cheap hamburgers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    Corporations pay governments. Governments allow too much salt, sugar and other neuro toxinns in our food. Adverts are the red herring the government love us to get involved with while the real issue of who allows what to happen appears to be overlooked.
    Bleating on about obesity and the toll on the N.H.S by the current

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    "What's with all the excuses not to change?"

    I'm getting tired of seeing this non-argument creep into all of these 'ban this' debates.

    This is very simple - it is NOT for everyone else to justify why something that isn't already banned ought not to be banned. It IS up to you, the proponents of the ban, to justify why it should be banned. You haven't done this, so you lose.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    Same old drivel from Jackie Baillie I see. A ban on politicians like her would probably be more helpful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    This is hilarious ! The only jobs left in the UK are in fast food stores. They are the companies paying all the taxes.
    When David Cameron and the Tories claim to be creating jobs these are the jobs they are talking about - fast food jobs. Do you really think they are going to tax them and risk upsetting the only businesses who are expanding ? Hilarious.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    Banning the advertising of junk food is an absurdity because the presence of fast-food outlets its culturally imprinted on our national consumer psyche due to its ubiquitous pervasiveness. People, including the young, frequent these places regardless of advertising simply because of their accessible due to a quasi-omnipresence on major high streets and the food's attractively low prices.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    156.rideforever "What's with all the excuses not to change?"
    Because, and this may come as a shock, some people enjoy doing things that the Govt / health police deem 'bad for us'. Some reject the claims of the alarmists, as is their right, or have weighed up the risks and made a personal choice regarding their bodies. You are free to live as you choose, I ask only that you allow me to do likewise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    Obesity is only small part of the problem. Too much fat, salt and sugar do long term damage to the body, even if you don't put on weight. I really don't understand why some can't get that into their heads. The FSA should also define when food is classified as junk. Shouldn't be too difficult. I have nothing against home made burgers btw.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    Fat,Sugar and Salt should be taxed heavily and a clear warning not dissimilar to cigarettes should be shown in every pre packed and pre prepared food. The percentage of these substances should be stated clearly as say Fat 30% or Sugar 20% Salt 10%. This will discourage consumption of dangerous food. The supermarkets and the Macdonald of course will advocate "confusion" as the present labeling.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    How will they define "junk food". There is no such thing as junk food, just a junk diet. Nothing wrong with burgers, kebabs, pizzas, etc occasionally. The problem is if they form the bulk of your diet. I don't see any adverts encouraging sensible diets, but if there were, you would all complain about the nanny state! Parents need to take charge of what their children watch and eat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    I dislike this ban / regulate / manipulate / control attitude that the government has to everything that once we were free to choose.

    Just compel ALL food adverts to display in LARGE text at the bottom of the screen the calories, salt, sugar and transfat content of the product in question. To make it simple, colour code it too - blue=0, green=low, amber=medium, red=high.



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