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Last Updated: Monday, 15 March, 2004, 15:02 GMT
Should super-sized fast food be banned?
McDonald's has unveiled a new range of 'healthy' alternatives to the traditional Big Mac, a week after announcing it would phase out super-sized portions.

The company is introducing meal-size salads, a side salad, fresh apples and a burger made from Quorn.

However, salads with dressings could have a higher fat content than cheeseburgers, say healthy eating groups.

McDonald's says the menu changes are due to customer demand, and that larger portions - in themselves - do not cause obesity.

At the same time health and consumer organisations are calling for a ban on junk food adverts in a bid to tackle rising obesity rates.

Should super-sized fast food be banned? Are we doing enough to tackle obesity? Would you like to see a ban on advertising for junk food?

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.

It's easy not to eat junk if you just don't buy it in the first place
Steve, Ireland
People need to know what is good for them and what is bad. I am often amazed at how much food in the supermarkets is not really good for you (added salt, sugar, fat etc) but is presented as if it is OK. Cutting out biscuits, beer and crisps makes a big difference and is very easy to do. I find that a little bit of self control once a week when shopping saves a lot of effort later in the week; It's easy not to eat junk if you just don't buy it in the first place.
Steve, Ireland

A bit of exercise, perhaps 1/2 an hour a day, and general all round sound and healthy eating is all you need. After that, some fast food every now and again can be a treat. It should never be regarded as wholesome nutrition.
PG, Australia/ ex-UK

You Europeans do not know how hard it is to stay thin in this country! I had to give up most processed foods. The only liquid I can trust here is water. Since I have decided to make my own food I have lost 10 kg (22 lbs). I was never fat, but since I began my career, it has been harder and harder to stay thin. My co-workers feast on McDonalds like it's their own mother's cooking!
Greg, Chicago, USA

Higher tax on high fat and high sugar products would be more effective than a public health campaign but the US government hasn't the nerve to tackle the fast food companies.
Rhona Macpherson, UK

People have to realise that more is not always better
Ray, Australia
The problem with obesity is not a problem with food, but a problem with society in general in our consumer oriented world. People have to realise that more is not always better, whether referring to food, cloths, bigger cars etc. In general we are fat, indebted financially, and unhappy. We want more of everything regardless of whether or not it is good for us. We all need a little more discipline, and a little more respect for ourselves and the world we live in.
Ray, Australia

I have a high pressure job and I work very long hours. I don't have time to prepare healthy meals or exercise. This has proved to be a vicious circle
Kevin Smith, England

It's the people's ignorance that causes them to get sucked into the brand's power-play. You can't blame McDonalds for doing its job. One should learn to control one's eating habits. Changing the menu won't change the mindset of the person eating the food.
Samia Taqi, Pakistan

Millions of people are dying every year of starvation and hunger related diseases, while around 70% of American (same in many other countries) of grain is being fed to animals. The governments should stop subsidising the meat industry which is responsible for many deaths from heart attack, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Go vegan!
Andrew, Japan

If you are hungry, but not really hungry, don't go to McDonalds, or the sweetshop or the ice cream stand. Go past. If you are really hungry, eat what you like e.g. McDonalds, but make sure you are eating slowly. It fills you up better that way. It is not the "food" in fast-food that makes you fat, it is the "fast".
Gunnar Hovde, Denmark

It's human nature to take the easy route. Junk food and watching the telly are easy, while eating properly and exercising are not. We need to educate kids as to what to eat and what will happen if they fall into an unhealthy life style. More government interference in our lives won't help. Plus its not the fault of fast food companies if some people are to damn lazy to cook properly or walk to work.
B. Anderson, Newcastle

Banning of junk food ads is not going to work, it didn't work for smoking
It is down to the individual to exercise self discipline in what they put into their bodies, we all have a choice in what we eat. Banning of junk food ads is not going to work, it didn't work for smoking. The food manufacturing industry should also shoulder the blame, the government should elect a food inspector to go back to basics and produce healthy foods without additional salt, sugar and additives -put the customer before profit.

To say that people cannot afford to eat "good" food shows a lack of education and intelligence. The occasional treat of fish and chips for my family will set me back around 10 when I can feed them a decent meal of meat, potatoes and fresh vegetables followed by fresh fruit for less than half that. It's all too easy to make excuses for laziness and lack of education. My son takes cookery lessons at school and has so far managed to make sausage rolls and various pizzas, what hope is there for him if he doesn't learn how to prepare a proper meal at home.
Ali, UK

Instead of writing "Diet Coke" and "Low Fat Crisps" why not just simply write "High Sugar Coke" and "Full Fat Crisps" instead? That would trim waistlines very quickly indeed.
Stephen Sweeney, London, England

Changing to a low carb, high protein lifestyle will reduce obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol rates with one stroke. Walking or cycling to school or work, taking stairs instead of lifts, parking further away from your destination, will all help considerably, and also reduce congestion and pollution.
Sarah Mabbitt, England

There is no need for the state to get involved
Al, UK
The prohibitive society are never happier then when they have found something new to "ban". If MacDonald's want to change their menu because they think it will suit the customers better that's fine. But there is no need for the state to get involved - haven't they got better things to think about than the size of a portion of chips?
Al, UK

It's not necessarily the size of the portions that need changing, it's the way the food is made. Less fat, more taste!
Jessica, England

Ah yes - perfect parents would never feed their kids junk food. However, most parents aren't perfect, they are just people and why should they have to constantly be fighting against the multi-million pound advertising campaigns designed to cause their kids to pester? The kids always lose out - either their pestering works and they get fat food, or it doesn't and they feel neglected (it isn't logical, but when was that a requirement for childhood?) What about a bit of responsibility on the part of advertisers as members of the human race?
Katherine, UK

I like McDonalds, Burger King, pizza, kebabs and fish and chips. Am I overweight? No! Do I eat these sort of foods everyday? No! The only reason people are fat is because they eat too much! To paraphrase Ann Widdecombe, a diet book should consist of 4 pages only. Eat. Less. Exercise. More!
Sue Hudson, London, UK

Many of the comments I see are in denial that there is a problem
Helen, US
Many of the comments I see are in denial that there is a problem. Have you been to the US recently? Obesity is a big issue. In the office people eat Dunkin Donuts for breakfast (and not just one), fast food for lunch, and then feed their families on super-deal family sized buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Its a cheap way to eat, but its making people obese, increasing the rate of diabetes, and worst of all, making kids grow up already obese, with all the personal confidence problems that causes. If nothing else, for the sake of the kids of obese parents, something needs to be done soon.
Helen, US (ex UK)

No, supersize portions should not be banned. All this nannyish nonsense is so depressing. Whatever happened to freedom of choice and personal responsibility? People who over-eat are just going to get their big portions and multiple helpings elsewhere. Will the government station 24-hour food-police in the kitchens of the obese next?

No, super-sized fast food should not be banned. What we should do is eat when we're hungry. At the moment we eat whenever because it's oh-so convenient. And for these people to blame the fast food industry for their obesity assumes they have no self-esteem. The industry is not holding a gun to these obese people's heads. Get some will-power!
Mike Bonet, USA

The reason children are putting on weight is because they do not get enough exercise
Sue, UK
The reason children are putting on weight is because they do not get enough exercise. It is about time there was a government drive to improve and make safe existing park areas so that children can be encouraged by their parents to play out instead of sitting at game consoles or computers. The government are failing children today by not making this an important issue - they are missing the point if they think its our eating habits that need monitoring.
Sue, UK

I ate just as much junk food when I was a kid as the kids today and yet I wasn't obese. The difference is I was encouraged at school to play sports and burn off those calories. I heard the other day that some schools have had to ban sports days because of competition... It's no wonder all the kids are fat!!!
Adi, London, UK

This is just a cynical ploy by McDonald's. I'll now have to buy 2 burgers instead of the supersize which will cost me more and further increase their profits.
Dave Hough, UK

Or, Dave Hough, you could buy one burger and stop being so greedy - which would in fact decrease their profits...
Steve, UK

Who's ruining our health? I thought we were all living longer and that's why the state pension is in a mess. The USA is 10 years ahead of us in the "fat stakes" and their life expectancy is increasing not falling. Compared to the UK population of 200 years ago I bet we all seem obese, but they only lived on average to 45. Large fries Sir? Yes bring it on.
Mike, UK

Vegetables and fruits are some of the most expensive items in the supermarkets here
Linda, Connecticut, USA
Vegetables and fruits are some of the most expensive items in the supermarkets here. As a student, I know how to save money - get fatty, pre-packaged foods. Or just go to McDonald's. It is no accident that poor people here are fatter than those who have money to get a gym membership or get a treadmill at home.
Linda, Connecticut, USA

Banning super-sized portions will make no difference at all. I have seen people buy two or three burgers at once! They will just increase the quantities if they portions are smaller.
James, Dorset, UK

The restaurants that open earliest and close latest are fast-food outlets like Burger King, KFC, McDonalds and your average kebab house. You can pick up any packet of crisps, sweets and chocolate from practically any shop now, from grocers and chemists to petrol stations and off-licences. Meanwhile, 'healthy' foods are scarce seen unless sold for a premium. Our consumptive habits are utterly bent, and the 'choice' bit I'd say is removed: you can buy a kilo of sugary rubbish in far more places and far cheaper than a pound of apples.
Robert Willoughby, London UK

UID 1393645) Serving sizes are one of my pet peeves. I well remember buying a small bag of crackers from a vending machine, feeling virtuous because I had managed to withstand the sugar and chocolate on offer. After eating the bagful, I happened to glance at the nutritional information (which cannot be seen before buying the crackers). I had eaten three "servings" at one go! I think that whatever is sold in a vending machine should contain one serving unless clearly marked otherwise.
Andrea Keirstead, USA

I'd love to see healthy food on takeaway menus
Anthony, England
I'd love to see healthy food on takeaway menus. I get hungry when driving late at night, and I usually end up visiting 24hr supermarkets for pasta snacks etc. Surely there is a market for healthy options?
Anthony, England

How many obese vegetarians (and vegans) do you see? I'm not suggesting for people to cut out ALL meat from their diets, but a considerable amount, at least.
Joseph, Virginia, USA

What should be banned is this ridiculous pre-occupation with food and weight that society's developed; what's good, what's bad, are we too fat or too thin, etc. I believe that this obsession is at least partly to blame for the rise in eating disorders.
Shelley, Northern Ireland

A large percentage of the worlds economy is based on advertising. Nobody will ever stop it nor should they. The place where "education" starts is at home and as a parent our children eat a healthy balanced diet. We as a family had many a battle over the meal table - until we all ate the same food. Too many people let their children get the upper hand and give in to their children at home. By the time they get into school and really noticed television advertising its too late. Parents, it's our job - and that includes saying No!
Clive, UK

It is super sized people who should be banned!
Danny, Southampton, UK
No, it is super sized people who should be banned! I have the occasional "Mac" like everyone else, but I am slim and reasonably fit because I practice a thing called "Self Discipline" You don't get fat if you don't eat too much, isn't that amazing? Why blame the retailers for other peoples over indulgence?
Danny, Southampton, UK

As far as I can see banning junk food advertising aimed specifically at children won't stop anyone who wants to from buying and consuming large amounts of junk food. But what it will do is stop reinforcing in the minds of impressionable children the idea that junk food is nicer and better than healthy food. If advertising didn't influence behaviour then companies wouldn't spend millions every year on it, wake up people.
Colin Wright, UK

The causes of obesity are simply greed, laziness and ignorance. Obesity was never a big problem in less affluent times. It isn't a problem now for cultures living a simple existence on limited means. It wasn't a problem before gyms, health warnings, the internet, nutritional education, food labelling, nanny governments etc. For those looking for some 'secret' to healthy living consult the history books
S Ross, UK

Something needs to be done and not just by McDonalds. Salt, Sugar and fat are addictive because these were not always readily available to early man so when the found it they pigged out. We are still programmed to do this. I think levels of these products (particularly salt) are so high in some foods that it will not be long before the insurance injury claims industry is suing food companies for obesity and probably strokes caused by high blood pressure.
Keith, Rayleigh, England

Those who want more will simply ask for double portions
Terry, England
We don't need a nanny state which regulates everything for us. We need decent education - including nutrition and diet - and sensible parents who will ensure their children learn by example. Banning large portions will make no difference, those who want more will simply ask for double portions.
Terry, England

Banning super-sized portions will just force the public, to buy two portions of fries instead of one super-sized portion, I'm sure the junk food industries can see profits on the horizon again.
Andy, UK

Disgusting. Jowell and her friends in the fast-food industry are destroying the nation's health and ruining our children's lives for profit. They should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. And they wonder why they're so unpopular now, and why everyone's given up on politics!
Mark Serlin, London

Why not lower the price of healthier (organic) food options and compensate by increasing the price of junk food?
Cleo, UK

Banning of advertising aimed at the young will not work! McDonalds and companies like them will just increase their prices and then introduce a "2 for the price 1" advertisement to encourage people to consume just as much as they do now.
Stephen Lynn, Kilmacolm, UK

There is a strong link between children eating fast food and coming down with diabetes
Elaine, Brooklyn, NY
The US is doing absolutely nothing about banning advertising and keeping junk food out of supermarkets. And there is a reason for this. There are a lot of industries relying on Americans getting sick and obese. The billion dollar diet industry, our privatised healthcare system and the pharmaceuticals industry. On TV I saw a fast food commercial followed by a pharmaceuticals ad for a painless diabetes shot for kids. There is a strong link between children eating fast food and coming down with diabetes. And on top of this, if you want to buy healthy foods in the supermarket, they turn out to be more expensive than the less unhealthy options.
Elaine, Brooklyn, NY

Lawsuits and banning of advertising just shows the sorry state the world is in, where people have no self-control and will literally "eat up" whatever the market gives us.
Ketan, USA

It's the people's ignorance that causes them to get sucked into the brand's power-play. You can't blame McDonalds for doing its job. One should learn to control one's eating habits. Changing the menu won't change the mindset of the person eating the food.
Samia Taqi, Pakistan

Providing decent well balanced and free school meals for every child at school would go a long way towards educating young people on what and how to eat. There is no point in banning the advertising of products when the very organisations meant to educate our children are stuffing them full of overpriced chips and pizza.
Andrew Leah, Church, UK

I teach in a prison and last week one of my students was furious because his six year old son was refusing to drink pop or eat sweets. He blamed the boy's school and was ringing him that night to tell him not to listen to them. All the other men in the class agreed with the father and were horrified that the school was turning the children against what we would call junk food.
Gill, UK

Education on nutritional food and in particular portion control is what is required
Wendy, Fife
If they are going to ban junk food advertising then they also need to ban supermarkets from putting loads of sweets around the checkout queues as this creates 'pester power' also. But where will it end? Education on nutritional food and in particular portion control is what is required, but it needs to start now.
Wendy, Fife

I recently read of an initiative in Bradford where a local community nurse holds regular sessions in the pub to check people's blood pressure, cholesterol, weight etc and gives advice on diet, giving up smoking or suggests they see a doctor if the problem is more serious. The government needs to find funding for initiatives like this that provide solutions for individuals rather than a one-size 'five portions of fruit and veg a day' solution.
Deborah Mason, UK

There should be a ban on junk food advertising - at least during day time and early evening. There is a tendency to trigger perceived rather than real appetite with much visual stimulation of food images, I suspect.
Lesley Bishop, England

No, ads should not be banned. My kids can nag me as much as they like and they won't get junk food until I say so. It's parental control not ads that are the problem here.
Derran, Wales

Why should we have to compete against those who only seek to exploit our children's vulnerability?
Nigel Baker, UK
I bet all those who are against banning advertising aimed at children aren't parents! Those of us who know what we are talking about know the difficulties of fighting against such marketing. Why should we have to compete against those who only seek to exploit our children's vulnerability?
Nigel Baker, UK

Of course. While they are at it, let the government ban everything that is bad for us so that we do not have to worry about making any of those tough choices for ourselves. The Nanny State lives!
Kate, UK

We should follow the Scandinavian example and immediately ban all junk food adverts on children's television. The very fact that there are so many of these adverts show they work. In addition, manufacturers should not be able to advertise (including on the packaging) their products as 'for lunchboxes' if they are unhealthy. I work in an infant school and am horrified by the contents of many children's lunchboxes. People may argue that it is the parent's responsibility, but surely the state should make all reasonable effort to ensure children are not growing up with unnecessary health problems.
Susan Hammond, UK

When I started at university I was shocked to see the number of students who couldn't boil an egg or dice veg. Maybe some lessons in diet and cooking could help.
Katie, UK

There are a lot of people talking about self-control and common sense which is fine for adults. The problem is that children lack these qualities, they are gained as they grow up but are not innate. If you put an unlimited supply of sweets in front of most children they will usually eat until they are stuffed. The issue is not banning fast food or all food advertising. The suggestion is to ban advertising that is aimed at children and this is a proposal I support wholeheartedly.
Matt, UK

Why is the government wasting my time and money on this? If people want to eat too much and have a heart attack let them. We're all adults and have choices. How about the government doing something useful? Stop regulating and controlling everything in people's lives.
Stephen, South Wales

We'll need a junk food czar in overall charge, an OFJUNK inspectorate
Neil, UK

Great idea. We'll need a junk food czar in overall charge, an OFJUNK inspectorate to monitor progress and enforce standards, a committee of the great and the good to decide what is and isn't junk, food cameras on the high street, 15 extra pages of intrusive questions on the tax form to claim healthy lifestyle benefit, random cholesterol testing, a lard police with powers to confiscate the assets of evil chip pushers...
Neil, UK

The problems isn't the junk food ads, its parents who don't do their jobs. Nutrition is a parent's responsibility. Parents buy the food. Parents can control where their children go. It's the same all over the world. Parents want to blame society for their own bad parenting.
Sherry Beth, USA

As body composition is mainly down to diet, anything that reduces kiddie's consumption of junk should be done. If that means banning ads or the sale of junk foods to kids, I'm all for it. We grown-ups must take responsibility for our own actions, but kids need protecting from clever ads and the sheer abundance of available junk to eat.
Nigel K, UK

So if the banning of junk food ads will not reduce the intake of junk foods does that mean that the cigarette companies will be able to advertise again??
Grlions, UK

And the Nanny state continues in the UK...Wake up people! Banning ads won't work. Parents should be fined if their children eat at junk food places more than once a week but since that can't be done, parents simply need to take responsibility for what their children consume.
Kyle, USA

What is junk food?
John Franklin, UK

What is junk food? Some say pizza. But a pizza fresh from a wood fired oven in Naples is healthy and delicious. Some say a hamburger. But a burger made from lean beef served with salad in a fresh bread roll sounds fine to me. If anything is to be banned it should be the selling off of school playing fields. Another problem is car-centred development in our towns and cities that make walking and cycling unpleasant and dangerous for children and adults alike.
John Franklin, UK

Encourage responsibility! Stop nannying people and insist that if they get ill through poor diet it's their own fault. Abdication of responsibility is at the root of many of today's societies problems.
Justin, UK

I predict in 20 years time we will look back & think why did we not act sooner & regulate both the food industry & the marketing machine. Just like we should have when the warning signs were out for: asbestos, cjd, smoking, stress, saturated fat, excessive working hours, etc etc.
Phil, England

Presumably the companies that pay for advertising do so because they believe that it influences people to buy the product. This being the case I wonder why Tessa Jowell thinks banning advertising won't work? Could it be that the Labour Party receives donations from some of these companies?
Philip Cleveland, UK

Is it a surprise to anyone that the government is more interested in protecting the concerns of a minority of corporations rather than the welfare of the majority? Money is power. Democracy is a fallacy. The only thing that will really precipitate change is where we choose to spend or not spend our money.
styles, England

Do we really want a nanny state?
Patrick Mahon, UK

A ban is going way too far - do we really want a nanny state? If people choose to eat unhealthily and not exercise, that's up to them. It can hardly be argued that they don't know the likely effect. As for children, surely it's a matter for parents to decide what they feed to their children?
Patrick Mahon, UK

I don't think that banning junk food advertising will work - it's a pretty draconian measure and hasn't worked to stop young people smoking. What about focusing on education? I think it would be a good idea to teach children about healthy eating in school.
Kate, Luxembourg

Yes! The government should ban junk food advertisements, or least force them to carry some health warning. The ban on cigarette advertising HAS worked (sorry Helen W, but you're wrong) and would probably have the same effect on junk food. Of course advertising works, those who say it doesn't force people to buy products they don't want are naive - McDonald's and Coca-Cola don't spend hundreds of millions on advertising each year for no reason.
Russ, UK

Banning ads is not the answer... Stop showing junk on TV!! The kids would automatically go out and play (and so burn off any fat) instead of being stuck in front of the telly watching rubbish!!!
Rekha, England

It is actually possible to eat junk food in moderation, remaining fit and a healthy weight. That's hardly a revelation, but you'd be forgiven for thinking otherwise with all this talk of blanket banning. I'm no great fan of any sort of advertising, but I feel that all this is all rather patronising.
Rebecca Loader, UK

There is clearly a demand for 'junk' food
Jonathan, UK

The Government's role should not be to ban advertising, this would be disproportionate interference with the free market, there is clearly a demand for 'junk' food. The Government's role should be to warn and educate on the effects and this responsibility, if it sees fit, could be delegated to the retailers through legislation/regulation. So long as people are fully informed they should retain the right to make decisions, and accept the consequences, themselves.
Jonathan, UK

Do we really need every little thing to be regulated by the government? Aren't we able anymore to make up our own minds? If people want to stuff their faces with junk food go ahead, at least it was their own decision!
Franziska, UK

Bring in a 'fat' tax. The Government does (and should) tax everything else that has a high social cost. It will deter consumers and contribute to the social cost of poor health and obesity.
Ben, United Kingdom

Why not encourage our sporting heroes and celebrities to promote healthy eating habits and exercise instead of advertising crisps and burgers. I'm sure that junk food doesn't feature highly in the diet of a top athlete (even a retired one) so why promote rubbish food as "cool" to our children? Or perhaps there just isn't enough money in good health!
H Fowler, UK

Reading these responses it seems that most are of the opinion that the government should do nothing, that it's just a matter for individual responsibility and that people can ruin their own health if they want to. The problem with that view is that these people are a terrible burden on the NHS and prevent people who have looked after themselves from getting decent healthcare. People who smoke or are obese should have lower priority when it comes to getting cardiac surgery, for example, than people who have looked after themselves.
Andrew Thomas, Wales

There are two sides to this debate. On the one hand, the Medical experts who are concerned for the health of the nation argue that obesity is at such a crisis level that an advertising ban is needed. On the other hand the food and drink manufacturers argue that a ban is not necessary. Who would you believe? As they say, you cannot expect turkeys to vote for Christmas.
Sean Muirhead, UK

You can be educated about healthy eating but still lazy
Jason, UK
What utter nonsense! People are fat because they, or those responsible for them, are lazy. They do not prepare balanced meals for themselves and instead go to fast food outlets. There is nothing wrong with these places - we take our children there - because they enjoy going there. But we limit the amount. It causes them no harm and they see it as a treat. Tessa Jowell is correct. It'a about education. The problem is that you can be educated about healthy eating but still lazy!
Jason, UK

Surely the ultimate responsibility lies with the parents of the children! As parents, we should all be aware of the dangers of the wrong types of food. Whatever happened to preparing fresh meat and vegetables on a daily basis? Have parents forgotten how to prepare meals or are they just too lazy and can't be bothered? I had five children and we never had take away or pre-cooked meals. The pre-cooked meals are a wonderful idea, with such a variety, for pensioners, maybe disabled people and the very occasional "quickie" meal. Otherwise, it is not the fault of the food manufacturers that the children are becoming so obese.
Janet Kirk, England

Banning or taxing any aspect of unhealthy living is a joke. Fast food has its place when eaten in moderation, as does frozen junk food from the supermarket (which most kids unfortunately live on nowadays), but why shouldn't I be able to buy a burger every now and then because of others' lack of self-control and poor parenting? It is largely up to parents to spend their money on vegetables and bicycles for their kids instead of games consoles and DVDs.
Chris, England

Rather than a complete ban on advertising, the junk food companies should be regulated to control the rather cynical and pernicious manner in which they market towards children in the knowledge that if you get them young, they'll remain brand loyal. There is a deliberate marketing strategy behind sponsoring pop and sport stars as well as products like happy meals that goes well beyond simply relying on "pester power".
Craig, UK

People need to change the whole way they think about eating. To lose weight permanently, one has to change their lifestyle rather than just counting calories. Most people will discover that if they eat healthy food and do regular exercise for a few months, they will have no desire to return to an unhealthy lifestyle.
Sarah Hardman, UK

The ads could be banned before the watershed
James, Peterborough, UK
The ads could be banned before the watershed. The promotions where companies market food that is bad for children along with toys need to be stopped. To start with children just want the toys. If they got a free toy with a salad they would eat the salad as well. The problem is they get hooked on this salty, fatty, sugary food.
James, Peterborough, UK

I agree with Anne- Marie. Why should people who eat sensibly and enjoy junk food in moderation be penalised for others who can't control what they eat. I want to be able to see what junk food is available. The junk food adverts don't make me go out and buy it but I want to have the choice.
Lianne, Cannock, UK

Government influence would be better placed encouraging local councils to stop the selling off of school playing fields to raise finances. Kids need somewhere for play and socialising, not just for organised school sponsored sports clubs
Anon, UK

Ban junk food? Why? Because some people are irresponsible towards themselves and are eating too much? I believe bans have come to replace education. Because parents, schools and the state cannot educate youngsters to behave, eat, live correctly and fail to make them responsible towards themselves and other people, we turn to the easy solution of bans. For me, it's a bad sign.
Maria, UK

The majority of people's 'life choice' seems to be to eat themselves into health problems and an early grave
Elle, UK

To John B, Kathy & Ross - it would appear the public has had various sound nutritional information at its fingertips for quite a few decades and look at what the result has been - from manageable statistics in the 1950s, one in four men and one in five women is now obese in the UK. The majority of people's 'life choice' seems to be to eat themselves into health problems and an early grave. While I don't believe that any foods should be banned I agree with Helen that adverts that are clearly directed at children and encouraging 'pester power' should be banned immediately.
Elle, UK

Yet another incident where government policy is dictated by an industry's vested interest
Joe, UK

We are already bombarded by information on healthy eating. If people still can't be bothered to take responsibility for their own health and well-being, let them eat cake. And let them pay their own medical bills too, so that tax dollars can be spent on more deserving causes.
Adam L, UK

Of course not that's totally ridiculous! What next - a ban on car ads because we don't walk enough? It's all about choice and responsibility, if you choose to eat junk food you have to accept you are responsible for the outcomes.
Anna, UK

Sadly this is all part of the growing culture of people refusing to take responsibility for their own actions. As for parents being pestered - have they ever considered just saying no? When I was a child I used to pester my Mum to take me to fast food outlets but she simply refused, other than on special occasions, such as my birthday.
Chris Payne, UK

I really think that aiming adverts for fatty or sugary food at young children is very damaging. My nephew, who is less than two, gets desperately excited when he see chocolate advertised on tv and starts screaming for, 'coca' (his name for chocolate). You can't explain to a child of this age that broccoli is better for you!
Miriam, UK

A plain beef burger without chips is not actually unhealthy
Jane, UK
It depends very much on what you call 'junk' food. In itself, a plain beef burger without chips is not actually unhealthy, particularly if served with salad. Again, chocolate isn't unhealthy as an occasional treat. It's not the adverts that should be banned, but the serving of chips-with-everything, particularly in schools. The old idea of 'everything in moderation' was actually not a bad one when you come to think of it!
Jane, UK

After losing a lot of weight, I discovered that it is even more difficult to maintain weight loss. This is because I feel left out by not having all the junk food everyone else does. I don't feel normal. Junk food advertising should be banned and healthy food should become the norm and the easiest to buy in canteens and convenience stores. Junk food should be more difficult to find, like healthy food is now, so in years to come we all feel left out if we don't have enough fruit and veg every day. If we change the way we think about food, then obesity might become less of a problem.

The problem is not the junk food outlets, nor the advertising. The problem is the American-style "fast track" culture that has developed here leaving people little time to appreciate the little niceties of life. As a student, I'd love to be able to cook something decent, but I find little time to shove more than some chicken nuggets and chips in the oven. We ought to follow the European example and give people more free time. Maybe then people will learn to cook!
Darryl LeCount, UK/Germany

Obesity related illness now costs the NHS more money than smoking related diseases do
David Howe, UK
Obesity related illness now costs the NHS more money than smoking related diseases do. Tobacco advertising has been banned and one of the primary grounds for this was the cost to the NHS, so by the same reckoning and high-sugar or high-fat food advertising should also be banned. In addition if the calls to ban smoking in public are carried through on the grounds of the effect it has on the surrounding people then I would expect a ban on eating unhealthy foods in public as well. I find little more disgusting than the sight of hugely overweight people shoving burger after burger down their throats.
David Howe, UK

Of course they shouldn't be banned. It would just give people another excuse to take absolutely no responsibility for themselves. If I eat junk food, it's because I want to or am too lazy to prepare a decent meal, not because I've seen an advert on television.
Christy, UK

Tessa Jowell is wrong to focus purely on exercise good as it is. It is the high glycaemic index, of low fibre, heavily processed foods that needs to be understood. This leads to the production of more insulin which in turn lays down more fat. A ban on junk food ads would help but it is part of the diet problem.
Paul F, Channel Islands

The vast majority of us can't afford to purchase quality food
Cherry, UK
One man's junk food is another man's nourishment. To ban food at the cheaper end of the scale is to cause considerable hardship to those who can't afford to buy quality food (which is always expensive). The vast majority of us can't afford to purchase quality food for that very reason. Cheap food in this country came about during and after the First World War when conscripts were found to be so badly nourished that they barely had the energy to 'go over the top'. Moves were made then to farm more intensively in order to supply good food cheaply. WW2 made us realise even more the value of good quality, cheap food. There is nothing wrong with eating burgers and chips, it's the amount you eat that counts.

Over the past 60 years we have been encouraged to eat more than we actually need. Overeating is the real problem and, too, is insufficient exercise. Nobody walks anywhere today, I see children being driven less than one quarter of a mile to school - that is the real problem.
Cherry, UK

I don't think that a ban would work. However, there should be restrictions on advertising aimed at children. Place a ban on the free toys, birthday parties and such that are use to bring in children. Schools could also teach nutrition as part of PE lessons. The government should advertise what constitutes a balanced diet, possibly in conjunction with supermarkets. There is a lot of advice out there and some people may well be overwhelmed by it.
Heenal, England

Fine. Now could somebody actually define 'junk food'? Oh, and if Tessa Jowell is so keen on children's health, presumably she will stop selling off school playing fields?
John Cj, Bath, UK

I don't think a ban will help
David Hilton, Hudds, UK
Kids won't watch it on TV but they'll still speak to friends, go to the shops and eat in fast food outlets. I don't think a ban will help. If kids have tried sweets or whatever and like them they don't need an ad to encourage them to get some more, they will get it anyway!! We need to somehow make healthy food taste better than unhealthy food.
David Hilton, Hudds, UK

We need to look at why people buy junk food. Part of the problem is clearly ignorance of how to provide a sensible meal but as one working in a hospital I can see that another is the problem of time. So long as the government makes the working of excessive hours essential to meet its ridiculous targets while failing to provide enough money to pay for enough staff to do it, vulnerable people will resort to fast food "on the hoof".
Robby, UK

On a more general point, I don't think third parties should be able to approach children at all other than through their parents. This includes companies advertising junk food, toys, etc directly to children. I am amazed that we tolerate adults having a go at children in this way.
Margaret B, UK

Companies should be allowed to advertise what they want, it is the responsibility of parents and people themselves to show restraint. The junk food will still be there regardless of whether its advertised or not. Why don't we all start to be accountable for our own actions and stop this blame culture that is invading us from the US. What's the next step? Sue McDonalds for making us fat?
Jo, UK

Doctors always say a balanced diet is the key to good health
Paul Hoban, UK
The problem is not with the junk food itself, but with people eating too much. Doctors always say a balanced diet is the key to good health, but if people eat it all the time, the of course they'll gain weight. Another case of the nanny state taking the easy option. What we need is for people to realise what they're eating is only unhealthy if not eaten in moderation, same with everything else. Now back to my burger...
Paul Hoban, UK

Obesity and unhealthy lifestyles are a personal problem therefore can only be tackled through personal responsibility. I wish we stopped passing the blame onto the government, advertisers, restaurants etc. Encourage people to go out more and watch less TV by making local streets and parks more attractive and safe. More local sports facilities for both adults and children should be improved. Come on people, walking is enjoyable and an apple is cheaper and tastier than a chocolate bar.
Mary J, London UK

Adults need to take responsibility for their own eating choices. However TV advertising between children's programs and on hoardings close to schools needs to be controlled or, better still, banned altogether. Children don't have enough understanding of the type of psychological tricks used by advertisers to avoid being manipulated.
Lynn, UK

A ban on advertising will hardly make a difference. The cause of obesity boils down to a simple equation - energy intake minus energy expenditure. Try bringing back school playing fields and competitive games and let our youngsters have the opportunity to exercise. And when these kids turn into parents, the ethic will continue.
Tracey, England

Our bodies have not yet had time to evolve to deal with our new lifestyle
Stuart Neill, Northern Ireland
The banning of junk food ads will not make much difference. The main problem with obesity is that in the last 30 years western civilisation has moved into a very sedentary lifestyle due to television and computers. Our lifestyles have evolved, but our bodies have not yet had time to evolve to deal with our new lifestyle.
Stuart Neill, Northern Ireland

Junk food ads should be banned up to about 8pm, then they should be able to be viewed. This will stop them showing when children are watching.
Martin, UK

I think some parents really need to be taught how to say no to their children. To ban adverts is incredibly wrong, and unfair, as it's not the fault of the advertising or the fast food restaurants themselves, it's the weak individuals who do not seem to understand what eating in moderation means. Perhaps the 'pub' method should be used, "I'm sorry but I won't serve you, I think you've had too much to eat".
R. Callister, UK

Tessa Jowell makes the comment that obesity is more closely linked to a sedentary lifestyle than to advertising, yet admits advertising plays a part. The government clearly sees a correlation between smoking / cigarette consumption and advertising and have cracked down on tobacco advertising, so why the reluctance to take a similar strong line here to improve the nation's health?
Gail, UK

Personal responsibility is fine, but adverts should be banned at least during children's television, as other countries have done. The government should try to limit the power allowed to advertisements, rather than always being on the side of big business.
Victoria Lutje, UK

Two major factors are reduced exercise levels and high calorie foods, and junk foods are only one sector of the latter. The food industry should certainly reduce the amount of sugar, salt and fat added to products. Fast food outlets should also be made to pay a higher business rate to reflect their litter burden. They should also be required to include nutritional information on their packaging, like other foodstuffs.
Alex, London, UK

Having sold off all the school playing fields, shut leisure centres, stopped free school milk and made school meals more expensive than giving kids unhealthy lunches, now they wonder why we are getting fatter. Government should start promoting healthy lifestyles not healthy eating.
Dave, UK

Education is the key
Helen W, UK
The ban on cigarette advertising hasn't stopped the number of people taking up smoking so how is the ban on advertising for junk food going to work? Education is the key to stopping the growing number of obese people, education of adults as well as children.
Helen W, UK

Rather than ban the TV ads the government should ban fast food outlets instead.
James, UK

How about just banning junk food instead? This would make a huge difference to the nation's health.
Alex, UK

Ads aimed solely at children and that encourage 'pester power' should be banned. Parents also need to stop leaving their young children unattended in front of the TV, clear the bedrooms of TVs and make sure the food they eat at home is balanced. We are all pushed for time, but really, how hard is it to boil some veg?
Helen, UK

The government seems keen to ban everything else in sight so why not? Or they could be reckless and expect people to take responsibility for their own actions. Now there's a thought....
John B, UK

Oh for heavens' sake! What good would that do? People need to start making their own life choices based on available information, and not be told what they can and cannot eat. We'll be banning fresh air next!
Kathy, UK

Why not encourage advertisers to fund adverts for healthy food as well?
Sarah Davenport, UK
Adults can decide for themselves whether or not to eat junk food. With children, although the parents can decide, children are subjected to intense pressure from advertisers. Why not encourage advertisers to fund adverts for healthy food as well??
Sarah Davenport, UK

Any parent knows that children are influenced by TV and advertising. It is up to the parent/s or carers to counteract these media influences. Banning junk food adverts makes total sense as many parents understandably, do not know HOW to counteract the adverts' effects.
Julie Johnson, England

Adverts don't force me to buy junk food. How about placing the responsibility on individuals instead of blaming everyone else?
Paul Weaver, UK

Of course, the advertisements should not be banned. It is up to the individual what they chose to eat. However, it might be an idea to tax these foods, like cigarettes, to reflect the cost to society of the resulting health problems.
Dave, Sheffield, England

Why should thin people be denied eating what they want, just because some people don't have any self control? Don't ban fast food - just make the doors to fast food chains really really small, so only those who know how to eat properly can enter.
Anne-Marie, London, UK

Banning the adverts won't make the slightest difference but will ensure Britain's reputation as a 'nanny' state. Why not promote exercise, healthy diets and self-responsibility on healthy eating instead?
Ross, UK

Jowell cold on junk food ad ban
03 Mar 04  |  Health
'We need to improve health now'
03 Mar 04  |  Health


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