Ban on unhealthy food ads 'should be extended'

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The Independent Online

More than 100 diabetes experts today called on the Government to introduce a law banning all forms of "unhealthy food" adverts targeting children.

The group said current restrictions on television advertising during children's programmes should extend to all adverts, including those in newspapers, magazines and on billboards, to stop an increase in the number of obese youngsters.

In January 2008 a total ban on adverts for unhealthy food and drink products around TV programmes for under-16s came into force.

It extended similar restrictions which were in place for shows aimed at children under 10, and applied to food and drink adverts around all programmes of particular appeal to children under 16.

The experts said preventing an increase in the number of youngsters who are obese would also cut the risk of more people developing Type 2 diabetes.

The group from across the UK also called for tighter regulations of the food, drink and catering industry following a meeting arranged by the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE) on Thursday and Friday last week.

Dr Scott Ramsay, lead organiser of the event for the RCPE, said: "Rates of obesity and diabetes are continuing to increase at alarming rates and pose one of the most serious health challenges of this time.

"In response to this situation, diabetes experts from across the UK have come together to call on the Scottish and UK governments to demonstrate greater leadership in tackling this crisis.

"In particular we believe that the lessons from effective legislation on smoking should be used to promote healthier diets, increased physical activity and to inform transport and planning policy.

"This should involve tighter regulation of the food and drink industry and the extension of restrictions on 'less healthy' food and drink advertising in children's television programmes to all forms of advertising aimed at children.

"Smoking legislation is a good example of how laws can be used to benefit the public health and obesity has reached a crisis point," he added.

Around 120 leading specialists from across the UK agreed to a "consensus statement" to call for more legislation.

The experts also discussed wider aspects of diabetes care including recommendations on how clinical work could be improved.

Copies of the consensus statement will be submitted as recommendations to the Department of Health and the Scottish Government.

Last month a poll found most people had no idea their "spare tyre" or "muffin top" would put them at increased risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

The survey of more than 2,000 people was commissioned by Diabetes UK, Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

Excess weight around the middle generates oestrogen and excess chemicals in the stomach, which put people at higher risk of killer diseases.

But 97% of people questioned were unaware of a link despite 71% of those surveyed saying they had a "spare tyre" or "muffin top".

Women are at risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease if their waist measures more than 80cm (31.5 inches) while men are at risk at more than 94cm (37 inches).