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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 June, 2005, 17:35 GMT 18:35 UK
Call for junk food ad 'balance'
Image of crisps
Products aimed at children should be included in the rules, say doctors
Doctors have called for measures to curb the impact of junk food adverts.

A British Medical Association public health doctors' conference said health messages should have the same advertising space as unhealthy foods.

This "fairness doctrine" would ask advertisers of these products to fund such health broadcasts.

But the food industry said it was already working with the government to address the concerns over adverts, especially those which target children.

Industries should contribute to the cost of the public health view being heard
Dr Olsen

Dr Olsen, who is chairman of the Alcohol Addiction and Research Council said alcohol, fatty foods and, in particular those aimed at children such as crisps and biscuits should be subject to the "fairness" rules.

He believes companies advertising these products should also pay for adverts promoting public health messages.

Tax rebates that are currently given to companies on advertising as a business expense should be withdrawn, he said.

Dr Olsen added "What I am in effect saying is that where there are major public health dis-benefits to society from commercial products, these industries should contribute to the cost of the public health view being heard."


He said the ideal was to ban junk food ads, but said the proposed measures were a "halfway house" alternative.

There is nothing fair in the assumption, which is unproven, of guilt around the advertising of certain foods
Andrew Brown, Director-General of the Advertising Association

A spokeswoman from the Food and Drink Federation said: "The UK food and drink industry has committed to working with Ofcom and government on the whole range of concerns relating to advertising to children.

"In fact, last year the food chain together with the advertising industry told the Prime Minister we would be willing to participate in a government-led public health education campaign on healthy eating and healthy lifestyles."

Andrew Brown, Director-General of the Advertising Association, said: "They call it a fairness doctrine. There is nothing fair in the assumption, which is unproven, of guilt around the advertising of certain foods.

"All food advertising, including fast food retailing has declined over the last five to 15 years, but the nation is getting fatter."

He said problem of obesity was much more complex and involved lack of exercise and unhealthy diets rather than unhealthy foods per se.

"Finger-pointing is not helpful. Too much of the debate has been about scapegoating rather than looking for constructive partnerships that will result in some positive collaboration in search for solutions.

"We are doing an awful lot to try and be helpful and collaborate."

He said advertising codes were being reviewed, industries were promoting exercise and healthy lifestyles and manufacturers were working to reduce levels of salt and sugar in foods.


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