Ofcom dithers over curbs on junk food adverts

The television regulator Ofcom has infuriated health campaigners by failing to announce a ban on advertising junk food to children.

It is two years since the Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, asked Ofcom to develop "targeted" plans to curb the adverts, and campaigners were expecting to be told details of the action it intended to take. But instead of coming up with a concrete plan, Ofcom announced yesterday a new round of consultation on four proposals, all of which fell short of campaigners' calls for a ban on junk food adverts before the 9pm watershed, when children are no longer supposed to be watching television.

The 10-week consultation will further delay the start of a ban that Ofcom had been expected to announce last summer, at a time when doctors are warning of growing childhood obesity.

Ed Mayo, chief executive of the National Consumer Council, said: "None of these proposals goes anywhere near what's needed to redress the imbalance in TV advertising of unhealthy food to children - and so help tackle childhood obesity. Ofcom should have been bolder."

Ofcom proposed four methods of controlling junk food adverts, combined with a stricter code from the Committee on Advertising Practice that would ban celebrities and famous cartoon characters from appearing in food and drink commercials targeted at children under 10.

Adverts for Walkers crisps starring the former England footballer Gary Lineker could fall foul of the rules on celebrities. But Kellogg's promotions for sugary cereals such as Frosties featuring Tony the Tiger would escape the rule on cartoon heroes because they are the brands' own characters.

Ofcom's first proposal would ban junk food advertising and sponsorship from all shows specifically made for children, or those of "particular appeal" to children aged nine and under, such as The Simpsons, soaps and reality television shows. The second proposal would ban all food and drink commercials and sponsorship from those shows.

The third would limit the volume of food and drink adverts when children are most likely to be watching, at breakfast time and between 3pm and 8pm on weekdays and from 6am to 8pm at weekends.

The fourth proposal would be a combination of the above "which commands industry support". Any of the first three proposals would cut the amount of junk food commercials seen by children by half, according to Ofcom.

The watchdog said it was proving hard to find support among interest groups it had consulted, which included food manufacturers and advertisers. It explained: "In discussions with a broad range of organisations, it has become clear that there is currently no consensus on the most appropriate course of action beyond a general agreement that some form of action is appropriate and necessary."

Sue Davies, the chief policy adviser at Which?, formerly the Consumers' Association, said: "After a year of consideration, Ofcom has failed to seize the opportunity to tackle childhood obesity and related health problems. Ofcom has merely acted to pacify industry interests in the short term."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Social Media Account Writers

£12000 - £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This social media management pr...

Ashdown Group: Deputy Editor (Magazine Publishing) - Wimbledon - £23-26K

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Deputy Editor - Wimbledon...

Ashdown Group: Editor (Magazines/Publishing) - Wimbledon - £26-30K

£26000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Editor (Magazines/Publish...

Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

£25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent