Ban TV junk food ads until 21:00, say campaigners

Boy being tempted by chocolates in a supermarket An analysis of TV ads showed chocolate was promoted during family shows

Related Stories

Children are being exposed to TV adverts promoting unhealthy food which should be banned during primetime family viewing, says a campaign group.

Action on Junk Food Marketing analysed 750 adverts shown during the X Factor on ITV and the Simpsons and Hollyoaks on Channel 4 over 20 hours.

It found one in 10 promoted fast food restaurants, confectionery or supermarket 'junk food'.

But the government said advertising was not to blame for childhood obesity.

Start Quote

The UK's evidenced-based approach to the advertising rules works, balancing sensible protections with the freedom to advertise”

End Quote Ian Barber Advertising Association

The analysis, which was carried out by researchers at the University of Liverpool, found that unhealthy food items accounted for 11% of all adverts and around half of all food adverts.

They said the most frequently shown adverts for unhealthy food products came from supermarkets such as Aldi and Morrisons, followed by fast food chains such as Dominos and Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC).

Chocolate manufacturers like Lindt and Cadbury and brands such as Clover and Flora Buttery were also included on the "unhealthy" ads list.

The researchers looked at adverts shown during 10 hours of X Factor programmes and another 10 hours of early evening Channel 4 programmes during the run-up to Christmas 2013.

Peak viewing

The campaign group Action on Junk Food Marketing, whose members include the Children's Food Campaign and the British Heart Foundation, said children's TV viewing peaks around 20:00 but laws to protect children from targeted advertising only cover children's programmes, which tend to be broadcast earlier in the day.

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, said: "Parents don't expect their children to be bombarded with ads for unhealthy food during primetime TV, but that's exactly what happens.

Pizza Pizzas were one of the most common fast-food restaurant products advertised

"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."

Prof Mitch Blair, officer for health promotion at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said advertising junk food during family-friendly programmes like the X Factor is known to work.

"Not only are children and young people easily influenced and parents worn down by pester power, but food companies wouldn't spend huge amounts of money if it wasn't effective."

Start Quote

We are all eating too many calories and too much salt, fat and sugar which impacts on our health”

End Quote Dr Alison Tedstone Public Health England

Campaigners want the ban on "junk food" advertising to be extended to 21:00.

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

Sensible rules

The government said advertising was just one aspect in determining children's choice of food and one part of the package aimed at tackling childhood obesity and poor diet. It added that it was keeping "this area under review".

The Advertising Association went further saying the report was "lobbying dressed up as science" and the current rules on advertising were working.

Communications director Ian Barber added: "The UK's evidenced-based approach to the advertising rules works, balancing sensible protections with the freedom to advertise, allowing companies to compete - to the benefit of us all - and providing important funding for free-to-air TV."

But there is general agreement that with around one-third of UK children now overweight or obese, encouraging families and children to eat healthier diets is important.

Dr Alison Tedstone, director of diet and obesity at Public Health England, said they were working with the food industry to promote healthier products on TV through their Change4Life campaign.

"We recognise that we are all influenced by food adverts on TV. We are all eating too many calories and too much salt, fat and sugar which impacts on our health, causing obesity which increases our risk of cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, and some cancers."


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    This might have worked 20 or 30 years ago but kids generally stay up much later now and many of them have TVs in their bedroom. So does this mean that all children need to be in their beds by nine o'clock and that their TV's, computers, Ipads etc will be taken out of their room?

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    As a parent, I feel that it's my responsibility to do two things:
    1. Explain to my child the importance of healthy eating, and back that up by feeding her properly.
    2. Not give in to any begging/pleading on my child's part for treats whenever she wants them. Now and again, sure. But not all the time.

    While I wouldn't say no to such a ban, for responsible parents it's really not an issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Kids often get their eating habits from their parents, if the parents are still eating junk food then this ban would have no effect.

    Freedom to make bad choices is just as (if not more) important than the freedom to make good choices, we harm liberty if we begin censoring 'bad' things.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    There is no need to ban everything. Yes junk food is bad, yes adverts can make kids want things, but as a parent you have the power to say "No". Also, and here's a novel idea. Maybe your kids shouldn't be watching TV all evening. Turn the TV off, play games, do crafts, go outside.

    You can't just call for bans to compensate for a lack of self control.


More Health stories


Features & Analysis

  • Cartoon of women chatting on the metroChat wagon

    The interesting things you hear in a women-only carriage

  • Replica of a cargo boxSpecial delivery

    The man who posted himself to the other side of the world

  • Music scoreNo encore Watch

    Goodbye to NYC's last classical sheet music shop

  • Jon Sopel'Emailgate'

    Hillary gets a taste of scrutiny that lies ahead

BBC Future

What's life like when you get drunk on rice and potato? (Getty Images)

The man who gets drunk on chips

He brews beer inside his belly


  • A robotClick Watch

    The latest in robotics including software that can design electronics to solve problems

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.