Sweets at supermarket checkouts to be banned in fight against childhood obesity

Ministers also considering a 'watershed' prohibiting advertising sugary foods before 9pm 

Oliver Wheaton
Saturday 02 June 2018 17:11
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A high sugar, high fat western-style diet can impair brain fuction, says a new study
A high sugar, high fat western-style diet can impair brain fuction, says a new study

Selling sweets near supermarket checkouts and offering two-for-one deals on junk food will be banned under a government campaign against childhood obesity.

Ministers are also considering barring cartoons from promoting junk food and are consulting on making it illegal to sell energy drinks to anyone under the age of 16.

The Telegraph claimed health secretary Jeremy Hunt will introduce a watershed preventing products high in salt or sugar being advertised before 9pm, similar to the one prohibiting sex and violence to be shown early in the evening.

Unlimited refills of sugary soft drinks in restaurants may also be outlawed by the child obesity strategy, the newspaper claimed.

It said that consultations on restricting and banning certain sales would be launched before the end of 2018.

A report was cited as saying: “Where food is placed in shops and how it is promoted can influence the way we shop and it is more common for HFSS (high in fat, sugar and salt) products to be placed in the most prominent places in store as well as sold on promotion, for example, with ‘buy one get one free’ offers.”

The report comes the day after research was released showing around half of television food and drink adverts seen by children are for HFSS products or for fast food restaurants.

The advertising of junk food products has been banned during children’s programmes since 2007, but the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) on Thursday found that 70 per cent of TV campaigns for HFSS products or restaurants and bars are screened prior to the 9pm watershed.

Evidence from Ofcom suggests that in 2016 children spent 64 per cent of their viewing time watching television outside children’s programming.

The news comes as prime minister Theresa May faces pressure from MPs to crack down on childhood obesity.

The Health and Social Care Committee has suggested that failing to ban the broadcasting of adverts promoting junk food before 9pm would “call into question” Ms May’s commitment to tackling the issue.

On Wednesday, the committee also said that, to improve childhood obesity rates, cartoon characters should be banned from promoting junk foods.

Such a ban would mean that characters such as Tony the Tiger and the Milky Bar Kid would have to be dropped or used to promote healthier products. And cartoon characters from the latest summer blockbuster would no longer appear on the packaging or adverts for fast food.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “We’ve always said that our 2016 plan was the start of the conversation, not the final word on obesity.

“We are in the process of working up an updated plan, and will be in a position to say more shortly.”

At the end of 2017 figures from the NHS showed obesity among children starting their first year of primary school had grown for the second year in a row.

The figures showed 9.6 per cent of reception-aged children in 2016-2017 were obese.

Press Association

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