Junk food adverts targeting children could be banned completely, says industry watchdog

A quarter of primary school age children are overweight or obese

Matt Broomfield
Saturday 14 May 2016 01:02 BST
By 2034, 70 per cent of adults will be obese, many of whom will first become overweight as young children
By 2034, 70 per cent of adults will be obese, many of whom will first become overweight as young children (IS_ImageSource)

A total ban on advertising junk food to children is being considered by an industry regulator, as it moves to combat childhood obesity and lax online regulations.

A quarter of children aged between two and ten are overweight or obese, and by 2034 70 per cent of adults are expected to be in the same condition.

The Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP) is considering whether to remove ads for foodstuffs high in fat, salt or sugar and that are likely to appeal to children from print publications, public spaces and websites.

TV ads are subject to stringent regulations, and no children's TV show or programme watched by a high proportion of under-16s can be accompanied with adverts for junk food.

Obesity is on the rise

And now the CAP, which sets the ethical code for all non-broadcast advertisers, wants to introduce similar standards for online advertising.

Ofcom research shows that 96% of 12 to 15-year-olds spend more time online than watching TV. As such, CAP say they want to "ensure the advertising rules reflect changing media habits amongst young people".

At the moment, there are rules in place barring the use of celebrities popular with children, licenced characters and other kid-friendly promotions to sell food.

But CAP want to relax these rules so they only apply to unhealthy foodstuffs, meaning celebs and cartoon characters can be used to encourage children to eat their greens.

CAP acknowledge that "other factors" are considerably more significant in driving childhood obesity. According to the Fabian Commission on Food and Poverty, children from low-income families are three times more likely to be obese than children from wealthy backgrounds.

CAP chairperson James Best said: “Too many children in the UK are growing up overweight or even obese, potentially damaging their health in later life and imposing a high cost on society.

"Advertising is just one small factor in a very complex equation but we believe we can play a positive part in addressing an urgent societal challenge.

"In proposing new rules, our aim is to strike the right balance between protecting children and enabling businesses to continue advertising their products responsibly.”

The public consultation runs until 5pm on Sunday 22 June.

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