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 264.

    260 is in reply to 83. Dave Baker

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    Is MacDonalds considered junk food? I would have thought so.
    I find it strange they are one of the major sponsors of the Olympics.
    Get us to eat healthy? Eat MacDonalds then.....

  • Comment number 262.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.

    With so many mothers having to go to work nowdays its a wonder that there isn't even more quick foods (I don't call it junk food) being eaten by families, they haven't the time to prepare what is know as proper food after a days work unlike the wives of the highly paid so called experts that come up with all these ideas on how we should live.

  • rate this

    Comment number 260.

    Hi Dave,
    If you were to close down all the fast food outlets as you propose, Olympic athletes would not be very happy. Most of them love burgers and chips et., fast food keeps their calorie intake up, something athletes have to do! A nice problem to have!

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    "junk food" doesn't mean anything so how can it be banned? I believe that frozen ready meals and huge bags of crisps are junk so will those adverts be banned too? A big mac contains less calories than some pasta 'salads' sold in supermarkets.

    Instead of banning everything, how about trying what most other countries do; educating people about health, diet and fitness.

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    257. Proletarian Revolutionary
    "Hopefully we'll never again have to watch one of those awful Burger king, McDonalds & KFC adverts which promote dreadful food."

    You DON'T have to watch them - you can choose to change the channel. Why should they be banned from advertising just because YOU don't like them? How hypocritical considering you constantly use the 'me me me' response in other debates.

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    Hopefully we'll never again have to watch one of those awful Burger king, McDonalds & KFC adverts which promote dreadful food.

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    Excess drinking, unhealthy diets and smoking are costing the NHS a fortune. The economy is in the mire and we cannot afford to pick up the pieces when people need treatment after years of abuse.

    Add 50p to every Big Mac, reduce the tax on fuel by 50%. Gets the economy going and puts money into the NHS to pay for peoples 'choices'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    This is Scotland, where the consumption of fresh vegetables is so low it beggars belief. The government therefore has a duty to at least try to educate Scots about the benefits of real food, though whether a ban on junk food advertising pre-watershed will make any difference is moot. Of course, Labour will oppose everything proposed by the SNP...

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    I am not a fan of “junk” food. My kids seem to have grown up healthy, loving their veg and only occasionally eating fast food without the help of grandstanding politicians like Matheson.

    I look forward to independence for Scotland.Hopefully it will be a haven for self-righteous “progressive” autocrats where they can enjoy banning each other from whatever and leave the rest of us alone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    If families sat around a table to eat there would be less snacking of unhealthy food but the chances of this happening today are about as likely as me winning the lottery. I don't even play it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    All junk food should have "essence of brussels sprouts" added at the manufacturing stage.

    That will sort any McDonalds problems out overnight

    Now our next problem...we need to find work for the 70,000 employees we've just put out of a job

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    Mark is spot on. Banning advertising won't stop people going to Mc Burger or King Donalds. Whatever happened to freedom of choice? Why are the food facists worried about my health? I think they are more worried about their pockets " .... the cost to the tax payer blah blah blah....".

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.

    @247. Yes Mark,more proof that advertising does not work.How about banning ALL advertising? then the products would be cheaper in the shops.

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    Advertisers have the knack of subverting law. The Big Mac(s) henceforth will show their clean toilets in their premises and as a surrogate advert it will work wonders with customers. Business will continue to boom.

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    Right, I 'm off. Got to take my son to his football game. We're going for sushi afterwards. He loves sushi. Never see it advertised though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    Years ago, cigarette advertising was banned. Most brands were expecting sales to plummet and their market share to crash.

    Reality was, they didn't.

    The demand was more or less the same and they mostly held their market share - but now no longer had to pay millions per day in advertising costs.

    Results? Profitability increased.

    I wonder if any of the "ban it" brigade learned anything from that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    My grandchildren are rarely exposed to TV and these ads. It is interesting when out with them their choice is completely different from their friends who are obviously influenced the ads. Bring it on as soon as possible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    Nice to see all the child / parent haters coming out on Mother's day. I blame the parents for raising such loveless children.


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