British Heart Foundation calls for ban on food ads

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has called on the UK government to clamp a ban on junk food advertisements being shown before the 9 pm watershed in order to protect kids from making unhealthy choices, reported.

A new survey conducted by the charity showed 70 per cent of parents with children aged 4 to 16 had been pestered by them to buy junk food advertised on TV.

Of the more than 2,000 UK parents who were polled around 43 per cent of parents with children aged 4 to 16 reported they are badgered by their children at least once a week.

According to Mike Hobday, director of policy at the British Heart Foundation, regulations for TV and online advertising in the UK were "weak".

He added loopholes in the system meant that every day millions of children were exposed to sophisticated marketing techniques specifically designed to lure them into unhealthy eating habits. He added, this evidence showed that junk food ads were having a detrimental impact on children's behaviour and were hindering parents' efforts to get their children to eat healthily.

Companies could not be allowed to continue exploiting holes in the system at the expense of the health of children, he said, adding, ''The government needed to act now to help give children a stronger chance at fending off future heart disease.''

According to the BHF, almost one third of UK children were obese or overweight, which increased their chances of becoming or remaining obese during their adult lives and developing coronary heart disease, stroke or cancer, reported.

According to Ofcom, adverts broadcast on television had the potential to impact a child's food choices, consumption and behaviour around food, especially in young children. The regulator further highlighted that young children found it difficult to identify what was broadcast as entertainment and what was an advert.

Current regulations for advertising applied to 'non broadcast' materials such as online, in posters and magazines, although there was little distinction between what was healthy and unhealthy food. Rules for advertising did not factor in the use of brand packaging containing games and competitions or characters that may appeal to children.