Advertising is now number one priority to tackling obesity

14/11/2016 - 10:04
Reducing exposure of children to advertising on junk food is the top priority to tackle childhood obesity, according to a coalition of more than 70 health professionals.

The Food Foundation has called for the ban of TV advertising on unhealthy food and drink up to the 9pm watershed, all forms of non-broadcast advertising of junk food to children, and stopping fast food and fizzy drink sponsorship of sports events.

The government’s Childhood Obesity Strategy, published in August, failed to include any measures to reduce or restrict junk food advertising.

The group, which published its first Food Environment Policy Index using a network of 73 health experts from 41 organisations, said the second and third priorities were implementing the Soft Drinks Industry Levy and introducing a reformulation programme for processed foods bought in supermarkets and fast food chains.

Anna Taylor, executive director of the Food Foundation, said: “While it is good to see concerted action by the government on reformulation of processed foods, we must, at the same time, take action to help our children eat fewer processed foods.

“Parents are fighting a losing battle if their children are being constantly bombarded with advertising which idealises fast food. Other countries have managed to control this. Why can’t we?”

The fourth priority in the Index was to monitor school and nursery food standards and involved calling on the Department of Education to work with Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission and Food Standards Agency to set out a new framework and indpendent body for inspection and monitoring of standards in England.

Fifth looked at introducing mandatory buying standards for all public sector institutions and making the application of the balanced scorecard for food and catering services mandatory.

Dan Crossley, executive director of the Food Ethics Council, added: “Tackling obesity requires us all to take action on lots of fronts. However, we won’t make progress while we’re bombarded with advertising messages for unhealthy food and drink in so many places, so many times every day.

“That’s why the government needs to step up and regulate the type and quantity of advertising allowed, particularly in relation to children.”

Experts included in the Food Foundation included representatives from the Soil Association, Children’s Food Trust, Sustain and Food Ethics Council.

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