Children being targeted by junk food ads during family television shows, research finds

Analysis found that over a fifth of adverts during shows such as the X Factor were for food

Children are being “saturated” with junk food advertisements during prime time TV slots, research has found.

Youngsters who sit up to watch family-orientated television shows, such as the X Factor  and Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, are being bombarded with up to 11 unhealthy food adverts an hour, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) said.

In an analysis of more than 750 adverts from prime time television, the charity found that more than a fifth (22 per cent) were for food.

More than one in 10 (13 per cent) of these were for fast food chains and 12 per cent were for chocolate and sweet companies, according to the research.

And a quarter of food adverts were for “unhealthy food products from supermarkets”, BHF said.

The authors of the research reported that the food adverts “seem” to be aimed at a young audience, with more than half of ads using children, or “child-aged characters”, to promote their products.

BHF is leading a group of organisations, collectively called Action on Junk Food marketing, which commissioned the research.

The alliance has called for the Government and Ofcom to take action in light of their findings and has launched a new petition calling for minsters to ban junk food marketing for children.

Current legislation bans junk food advertising during children’s programmes, but for many youngsters their viewing peaks around 8pm.

"Parents don't expect their children to be bombarded with ads for unhealthy food during prime time TV, but that's exactly what happens," BHF chief executive Simon Gillespie said.

"Even when the show is over, junk food marketers could be reaching out to young people online.

"A lack of regulation means companies are free to lure kids into playing games and entering competitions - all with a view to pushing their product.

"We want the Government to protect children by switching off junk food adverts on TV until after 9pm and putting rules in place to stop children becoming fair game for internet marketing."

Professor Mitch Blair, officer for health promotion at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: "Extending the ban to 9pm would not only have a positive effect in changing behaviours, but it would also send a clear message to the industry.

"Children should not be commercially exploited and the advertising industry must take some responsibility for helping tackle the growing problem of childhood obesity."

A Government spokesman said: "The Government continues to keep this area under review and recognises that there are calls for increased restrictions on junk food advertising.

"It is widely accepted that advertising is just one aspect in determining children's choice of food, and the current rules are therefore just one part of the package aimed at tackling childhood obesity and poor diet.

"The Government is taking action, including through Change4Life and the Responsibility Deal, to ensure children get the best start possible in life and to make it easier for families to make healthier choices and follow a balanced diet."

Shadow public health minister Luciana Berger said: "One third of children in England are either overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school and the Government should be doing everything it can to tackle this crisis.

"Yet every day children are being exposed to persuasive adverts for foods and drinks that are high in fat, sugar or salt - the very ingredients from which the current regulations were designed to protect them.

"With health problems associated with being overweight or obese costing the NHS more than £5 billion every year, ministers must act now to ensure that the rules around advertising junk food to children are fit for purpose."

Additional reporting by Press Association

Read more: People who live or work near takeaways 'twice as likely to be obese'
Less than 1% of public health budget is used to treat obesity in children
'Sugar is the new tobacco'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk