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Last Updated: Monday, 8 March, 2004, 17:22 GMT
Action urged on junk food adverts
Children are influenced by TV ads, says the agency
A report for the government's food watchdog calls for new rules on when junk food ads can be aired on TV.

It suggests action should be taken to stop so many ads being shown when children are watching.

It says there is evidence to show that they are encouraging children to eat less healthy foods.

The report, which will be considered by the Food Standards Agency board later this week, shies away from calling for a total ban on such ads.

Ban urged

Last week, more than 100 of the UK's leading health and consumer groups urged ministers to ban junk food ads. They believe the ads are behind rising rates of obesity.

However, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell has said she is sceptical about the merits of such a ban.

The board will now be reflecting on those views and identifying options for action
Sir John Krebs,
Food Standards Agency
She has asked Ofcom, the new television regulator, to draw up a new code for junk food and drink advertising.

Health Secretary John Reid has called for public views on the issue, as part of the government's consultation on improving the nation's health.

This latest report for the Food Standards Agency suggests there is a link between junk food promotion on television and poor eating habits among children.

"The majority of food advertisements during children's TV are for less healthy foods and the evidence suggests that TV food advertising promotes increased consumption of these foods," it states.

However, the report rejects calls for a total ban. It says such a move would be impractical "given the likely difficulties of defining which adverts are aimed at children".

Nevertheless, it says action should be taken to redress the balance between ads for "healthier or less healthy foods".

It also calls for action on "the times at which these adverts are scheduled".

"Children's programming is a clearly defined sector of the TV schedule and provides an opportunity to address an imbalance during just over one quarter of children's viewing time," it states.

The report also calls for new rules on vending machines in schools. It says machines which are associated with "less healthy food and drinks" should not be accepted.

It also calls for the food industry to try to encourage children to eat more healthily. It suggests that celebrities should be used to promote "healthier foods rather than less healthy options".

The agency's board will also consider calls for clearer labels on food, such as one identifying products as healthy or less healthy.

'Ticking timebomb'

The agency's chairman Sir John Krebs said the proposals will be considered by board members later this week.

"The ticking timebomb that is childhood obesity is something that none of us can afford to ignore: schools, the government, regulators or the food and advertising industries," he said.

"The board will now be reflecting on those views and identifying options for action."

Martin Paterson, deputy director general, of the Food and Drinks Federation, said: "The FSA will have a role to play in the Health Department's pre-white paper consultation, and the industry will discuss seriously their proposals.

"However, both government and industry must be careful not to patronise consumers, telling individuals what's right or wrong for them to eat."

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