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Last Updated: Friday, 14 November, 2003, 11:40 GMT
Celebrity junk food ads attacked
Gary Lineker
Gary Lineker promotes crisps
Celebrities should be banned from promoting junk food, a leading medical journal has said.

In an editorial, The Lancet suggested celebrity endorsement of junk food is contributing to high rates of obesity, particularly among children.

It called on ministers to introduce legislation to ban the practise.

The Department of Health said it has no plans for new legislation but said there was a case for industry to act more responsibly.

The call comes just one day after MPs also hit out at celebrities who promote junk food.

The Commons health committee said stars who promote junk food should reconsider their deals.

Getting fatter

A recent report by the government's Food Standards Agency warned that levels of obesity are increasing sharply.

It found that around 9% of six-year-olds are now obese. That's twice as many as 10 years ago.

Celebrities should be ashamed
The Lancet
Some 15% of 15-year-olds are obese. That's three times as many as 10 years ago.

The report highlighted how junk food is contributing to the problem.

A king-sized chocolate bar provides a fifth of the daily calorie needs for a 10-year-old.

Compared with traditionally cooked meals, a chicken nugget takeaway is 30% high in energy contents; a quarter-pounder burger with cheese is 53% higher.

The Lancet criticised celebrities for promoting junk food.

"One of the most invidious techniques used by junk-food advertisers is to pay sports and pop celebrities to endorse foods - especially bizarre since sports celebrities need a properly balanced diet to achieve fitness.

It would be simpler to just ban all advertising targeted at children
Louisa Radice, Exeter

"Such celebrities should be ashamed, as should others who get caught in the web of junk-food promotion."

It singled out the BBC for criticism, attacking the decision to allow the children's television characters, the Tweenies, to link up with the McDonalds fast food chain.

The joint-promotion ran in 2001. The BBC said it had no plans "for further joint promotions with fast food restaurants".

The Lancet also criticised Cadbury's controversial Get Active campaign, which encouraged children to exchange chocolate wrappers for sports equipment. That campaign was backed by the government's sports minister and top athletes.

The Lancet said legislation is needed to prevent celebrities from promoting junk food.

"Celebrity endorsement of junk food has to be banned," it said.

"The 'British way' of regulation is to seek voluntary agreements with manufacturers.

"The time for that is past, and the junk-food industry needs to be forced by legislation to clean up its act."

Practise defended

However, the Food and Drink Federation defended the practice.

"The use of celebrities in advertisements is a perfectly legitimate practice by responsible companies and we would defend the right of companies to use them," said a spokeswoman.

"UK food and drink manufacturers have to abide by a strict code of practice when advertising to children."

The Department of Health said it had no plans for legislation just yet.

"It's not on the agenda," a spokesman told BBC News Online.

"But we want to see companies and manufacturers acting more responsibly.

"We want industry to make strides forward. The ball is in their court. Obesity is becoming a serious problem."


Netmums a web-based network run by parents for parents, is running a campaign against the promotion of "junk" food to children.

Visitors to the group's website can register their comments on the issue, which will be sent on to major players on either side of the debate.

Co-founder Siobhan Freegard said: "We┐re using our web site to capture the opinions of parents, and make sure they get heard.

"Ads are blasted to us on TV between children's programmes. Children's heroes smilingly tell them to enjoy fatty, salty foods such as crisps and irresistible, e-number- laced sweets are displayed at kids eye level at supermarket check-outs.

"None of us want overweight, unhealthy kids. We want our children to eat healthy good food and grow up strong and fit."

Call for TV food ads ban
04 Nov 03  |  Politics

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