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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 April, 2004, 08:17 GMT 09:17 UK
Should advertising food on children's TV be banned?

A BBC investigation has learnt that some of Britain's biggest food companies are targeting children in up to 40% of their television adverts.

The food companies argue however that they only spend 5%, of their total food and drink commercial TV outlay, on children's programmes.

Companies can afford to put more adverts on air during the daytime because advertising is so much cheaper than the peaktime evening slots.

The government recently has launched a wide-ranging review into food promotion and childhood obesity, with obesity doubling in six year olds in the last decade.

Should advertising food on children's TV be banned? Send us your views.


This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.

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

It is time we put the interests of our children before those of the food industry
Anna, Cambridge, UK
These ads should be banned. It is not by any stretch a complete solution, but it will help those who can't always resist their children's pestering. It is time we put the interests of our children before those of the food industry.
Anna, Cambridge, UK

Anyone who blames TV for their children's' dietary related health problems is just looking for an excuse to shift responsibility away from themselves for their failure to exercise parental control. All the government reviews of advertising in the world won't fix that.
Mark, USA

I do not worry about the food adverts on TV as much as the adverts for toys and games that are a complete waste of time and money, that my daughter feels she must have. These are the adverts that should be banned.
Samantha Rimmer

When I was in Mexico a couple years ago I noticed that TV ads for soft drinks, junk food etc had various text message at the bottom of the screen, saying things like "eat fruit and vegetables", or "eating too much sugar is unhealthy". I don't know if it works but it might be worth trying elsewhere.
Kyle, Lansing, USA

I'm Japanese. Even when I was a child there were so many "junk food" temptations but it was my mum who made sure I ate good quality meals. Also, in Japan each school has a nutritionist who plans balanced meals every day. We never had chips for lunch!
Yukes, East Sussex

I have a six year old daughter who up to recently was overweight due to eating far too much junk food and sweets/chocolate, but TV adverts are certainly not to blame. For us as a family, long working hours and lack of money have contributed to only affording 'cheap' junk food. She now eats more fruit and vegetables but our shopping bill has increased by a third.
Mike, Surrey, UK

Ban free toys with food
Rick Hough, Knutsford, Cheshire
My kids don't get switched on by the food - it's the toys they advertise that are given away "free" with the food they want. Ban free toys with food and you could watch the fast food empires crumble!
Rick Hough, Knutsford, Cheshire

Children in their first few years of life should be doing things like playing outdoors and having the parents read them bedtime stories. Not only would these activities ensure proper development of the mind and body, but also the child's relationship with mommy and daddy. Too much television can take it all away.
Anthony, Chicago, IL, USA

Children under six years old should not be permitted to watch TV.
Jerry, USA

The more television our children watch, the more they are bombarded with advertising directed at senseless consumerist behaviour. These days, it seems that our economy is based on an insatiable appetite for personal luxuries. Where else would children learn this culture besides television?
Joey Di Venosa, Montreal, Canada

All non-parental types say they will not let their children watch TV when they have them. Have children and then stay home and care for them 24/7. You'll change your mind about TV. Trust me.
Kathy, USA

As a father of three I agree that children should not watch TV and should be guided towards imaginative play, socialising etc. I'm sure that there is very little value in kids vegetating in front of a singing, dancing dinosaur. Parents generally need to change their mind sets from using the TV as a baby sitter.
David, Staffs

As a child in the early 70's certain adverts at the time would target kids (Fish Fingers, Dream Topping, Chocolate, etc.) and most of the products advertised contained so much stuff that wouldn't be allowed in food today. Like most kids I asked if we could have these things for dinner. My response was "No, we can't afford it and, besides, it's full of chemicals!" That was the last word on the subject and I haven't grown up with any mental scars as a result!
Karl, Leeds, UK

I switch over to another channel at the first sign of an advert
Jason Miles, Reading, UK
Advertise anything you like, I care not at all. I switch over to another channel at the first sign of an advert and I suggest other follow suit. As for advertising food on kid's TV are you saying they're going to go out and buy everything they see? I don't think so. Perhaps if parents took more responsibility for what they kids ate we'd have less of an obesity problem in this country.
Jason Miles, Reading, UK

Shouldn't we encourage our children to develop as citizens before we train them to be consumers?
Dominic Strada, London, UK

Overly-salted and highly-sugared food is making our children fat, not advertising. As a parent I study the contents of even so-called food such as cereals which experts recommend for children and am horrified at the amount of unnatural and unhealthy ingredients are in them. No, banning advertising is not the answer, but making ingredient lists easier to understand and controlling what is actually put in the food in the first place is.
Jack, Edinburgh, Scotland

Keeping your weight under control is simple - eat less and move more. Anything else is an excuse. TV doesn't make you fat...food does.
Peter, UK

TV doesn't make you fat...food does
Peter, UK
Shouldn't refined sugar be exposed as the addictive quick rush substance it really is? There appears to be a conspiracy of silence. The current epidemic of diabetes seems to mirror the rise in consumption that started in the late fifties/early sixties.
Gordon Brindley, Cheadle, UK

Why should there be any advertising during children's programming? They shouldn't be viewed as a lucrative consumer market because it is only 'pest power' that turns the advertising into sales. Admittedly parents should be tougher with their kids and teach them that they can't have everything they want, but some parents don't have the strength to do that and they shouldn't be held to ransom by the advertisers.
Steve, Reading, England

Just watch the BBC!
Jonathan, London, UK

There is a chance for some enterprising inventor here. How about a machine that detects adverts, and changes channels to a fitness and health disc until the commercial break is over!
John Lawrence, Southampton, UK

What a load of rubbish. Kids get fat (or do we have to say 'obese' now?) because they eat what their parents buy and feed them on. When are parents going to start taking responsibility for their own children's health?
Dave, Doncaster, UK

Many parents are too weak and easily manipulated
SH, UK

What sort of society allows its most vulnerable and impressionable members to be exposed to the sly cajoling of corporate advertising?
Ian Henderson, Reading, UK

What's so difficult? Switch the television off - and bring your children up knowing not to ask for things when out shopping! No is a very easy word to say - they soon get used to it and stop asking. Many parents are too weak and easily manipulated by those to whom they should be setting examples.
SH, UK

It's easy to say that the buck stops at the parents, but both of my kids are extremely overweight despite the fact that my wife and I are lean and regularly train. They are obsessed with food despite everything we do to try and control what they eat and I squarely lay the blame on food advertisers.
Peter Smith, London

I think parents have got a hard enough job to do without the cynical bombardment of adverts specifically aimed at the obsessive natures of children. Children's television programmers are to blame also! Allowing the faces of their shows to be used on the sugary based brands of rubbish that the supermarkets are so willing to sell. Money money money.
Emma , London

It seems to me that our kids need protection from inadequate parenting more than advertising.
Jan, UK

The nanny state we live in will ban everything we consume unless we take responsibility
Leon, UK

The buck stops at the parents! The people complaining about this sort of advertising are blaming everyone else but themselves as parents. Get a grip on your life and your children's. The nanny state we live in will ban everything we consume unless we take responsibility for ourselves. It looks like most people are happy for the state to rule their lives.
Leon, UK

What types of food would be banned from advertising? Only those classed as "junk food", or things like fruit and vegetables too? The trouble with a knee-jerk "ban it" reaction is that it often ends up throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Let's see a higher number of adverts for healthy, unprocessed foods.
David Hazel, Fareham, UK

Here in the real world, TV Advertising pays for programming. If you don't want your children exposed to the advertising, don't have the TV on. My kids eat what I eat - they always have. Buying fatty, sugar laden so-called "Children's food" is lazy, and a dereliction of parental responsibility.
John, England

Stop expecting others to do your job!
Andrea, London UK

Why don't parents just stop allowing children to watch commercial TV. My son only watches CBEEBIES which has good quality programmes and no advertising. One of his favourites is a cooking programme for kids. Parents must take ultimate responsibility for what their children watch and eat! Stop expecting others to do your job!
Andrea, London UK

My son is four years of age and from the time he went onto solids I have controlled his eating habits stress free. But when it comes to junk food he's never been to a burger bar and the chip pan comes out once in every three months so I have never had to say no because he's never asked for it, he has the odd bag of crisps and sweets but ultimately I'm the one in control not the advertising companies.
Kirstin, Swindon

The government should consider forcing food producers to advertise artificial chemical mush as what it is - artificial chemical mush - then people might stop buying it and go back to natural meat, fruit and veg.
Dave, England

Why on earth is it anyone's responsibility other than the parents as to what their children eat. If you sit your child in front of the telly 24-7 or fail to educate them as to diet and nutrition then it's nobody's fault but your own. They wouldn't advertise it if you didn't buy it and nobody is going to advertise fruit and vegetables to you unless give some kind of message that you are likely to buy them!
Phillip Holley, UK, Cambs

Personally I think those who want adverts banned are the ones whose children pester them into submission. Banning these adverts would make their lives "easier" - no pestering children to contend with. Parents appear to be getting lazier and as a consequence their children grow up spoilt and rude. Parents need to wise up and realise that they have to the power to say no and to turn the television off.
Kerry, Ulverston, Cumbria, UK

A good diet is about balance
S Dynan, UK

Parents are not going to change the eating habits of their children by denying everything they like and instead serving up baked potatoes, cottage cheese and a limited range of bland, unimaginative 'healthy' meals. A good diet is about balance, moderation, variety and most of all enjoying good food.
S Dynan, UK

Anyone who thinks that we don't need the government to intervene in this issue needs to wake up to the fact that the current way of doing things IS NOT WORKING. Encouraging exercise and greater parental responsibility are of course issues that need to be addressed, but your average parent simply cannot compete against the millions of pounds spent on brainwashing propaganda to make fatty, sugar-loaded food seem trendy and desirable to children.
Alan, Fife

Why can't anyone in this day and age take responsibility for their own decisions. No-one holds a gun to parents' heads to make them buy these products. If children are brought up to respect their parents (as I was)then the pressure to give in to their childrens' whims and demands would lessen.
Ciara, Manchester

No way, if you ban adverts, all we would be left to watch on TV would be the programmes themselves, I would rather we kept just the adverts and banned the countless repeats and soaps.
Stuart, UK

I think that advertising healthy, wholesome food (brown bread, butter, fruit, proper meat) would be a public service. However, advertising junk food, reformed chicken pieces and sugary drinks is only going to add to the problems of ill, hyperactive and obese children. Do they really matter so little that we are prepared to do this to them?
Sarah Bowyer, Reading, UK

Parents buy the food - simple as that!
Charlie, Leeds, UK

Parents buy the food - simple as that! It is a weak parent that gives into a child who does not know better.
Charlie, Leeds, UK

Why do we need anybody else to get involved in what is the responsibility of parents? Why establish a baseline for regulation based on those who either don't care or are unable to face up to their responsibility to provide their children with a sensible balance in all aspects of life?
Paul B, Oxford, UK

The advertising companies wouldn't spend so much money on such advertising if they didn't think it was effective. But also, I think, parents are the ones who buy the products, so they carry just as much responsibility. Rather than ban the adverts, which is not a democratic move, we should be seeing counter advertising... so that every advert for kids products is followed by a government healthy eating ad. Educate the parents and let them make informed choices.
Mark H, UK

Here is a radical idea, stop your kids from watching so much TV. Our children don't ask for junk food and they have more fun playing away from the TV than sat like zombies in front of it. Parents who complain are themselves to blame. Just turn off the TV, problem solved.
Duncan, Salisbury, UK

Have all the people here forgotten what it was like to be a kid?
John T, US/UK

Don't ban anything! Have all the people here forgotten what it was like to be a kid. It is the one time in your life that you get really excited over something so silly. Kids will be growing up with a severe lack of personality if they don't get the chance to get nutty over some pop star, cartoon, action figure, or novelty food item.
John T, US/UK

Companies need to make a profit, so no. When I was a kid (in the 80's) parents moaned about advertising of toys (transformers etc) and they had to keep buying the 'in' toy. Unfortunately, parents seem unable to use the word no to their children - sort that out and we might actually start getting some kids who respect the world around them.
Sandy, UK

As a mother of three very young children I consider it MY responsibility to teach my children about what they can and can not eat in moderation. It is my job to make sure their diet is healthy and varied. I do not feel under pressure to buy the junk food advertised. Perhaps those parents who feel pushed into it by their children should stand back and reassess who exactly is running the family home, them or their children.
Karen, Lower Earley

I can imagine that advertising aimed at children must be huge pain in the neck for parents
Marcus, London, England

I remember, when I was a kid, my dad would refuse to let us down from the table until we had eaten all our dinner, whatever was served - and my dad is no Jamie Oliver - trust me! Having said that, I can imagine that advertising aimed at children must be huge pain in the neck for parents - being constantly pestered for stuff their kids see on telly must drive them mad!
Marcus, London, England

I think advertising food on children's TV should be banned. A lot of these products are full of fat/sugar, not only that they are expensive. Why encourage children to become obese just so a company can make more money.
J, Ripley Derbys UK

Here's a radical idea - How about limiting advertising to "only" wholesome, healthy products? Let's return to the meat & two veg era, make it mandatory for all meals to be consumed at a kitchen (or dining) table with one parent (or adult) present and compulsory for discussions to revolve around family issues, morals, discipline, education, culture (and topics of that nature). In other words . . . Let's get back to basics!
Jock, London, UK

I do feel the advertising should be toned down. I also think when approaching this subject we should show an alternative. My daughter has been featured in the local news paper as an example of a child with an active life style. If other children see this along side obesity subject and see how cool it is, they might move from the sofa and start taking an interest in outside activities.
Frances Metcalfe, Dover, Kent

Advertising food to kids on TV would be pointless if the kids were out playing
Paul Sealey, Cannock, England

Advertising food to kids on TV would be pointless if the kids were out playing and taking part in activities etc... Rather than slumping in front of the TV to be entertained.
Paul Sealey, Cannock, England

Why are we blaming the food companies? Parents should exercise their proper responsibilities with their children and devise some other activity, other than letting them watch hours of mindless TV. They know that the advertisers will take advantage of their irresponsible attitude to caring for their children. Couple this by refusing to indulge their children in popular fast food restaurant or buy the latest designer snacks then the food companies would have to do something different.
Trevor, Colchester, UK

When I was 6 years old (mid 1980s) the only food designed for kids was alphabites and tins of shaped spaghetti. Now there are loads and loads. 95% of the kid's foods are high in fat, salt, sugar and price. Parents should teach their kids that they cannot have everything advertised on TV and also to broaden their taste buds as some parents presume that their kids don't like certain foods even though they haven't tried it.
Helen, Leeds

How can TV advertising be responsible for both obesity and anorexia?
Wayne Bates, Tilbury, Essex

I really don't think that childhood obesity can be laid at the door of advertising
Vik, UK

I really don't think that childhood obesity can be laid at the door of advertising. If parents coached their children from an early age to eat healthily then it wouldn't matter how much advertising there is. It is time that parents took more responsibility for the health of their children and stopped trying to find scapegoats. After all, how many times have you walked round the supermarket only to see overweight children accompanied by parents with a trolley full of crisps, pizza and fizzy drinks?
Vik, UK

The way it is going we might just as well make programmes longer and not bother with advertising. This should be down to parental control not government control. Just because something is advertised doesn't mean we have to go out and buy it.
Andy, London, UK

I believe that the targeting of those that are so easily open to suggestion by large corporations is wrong. Children are easily persuaded and influenced and this innocence should be protected. A lot of time is spent focussing on protecting our children from paedophiles, alcohol, and smoking and this should be extended to the producers of un-healthy food products.
Jake Griffith-Sims, London

Blaming advertisers for having obese children is just another lame excuse to avoid taking any personal responsibility. The list of excuses so far include: not enough money, 'healthy food' is too expensive, no internet access(!), not enough education, not enough time, can't afford to join a gym...etc.. The irony is that obesity was never an issue in less affluent times - in the days before gyms, the internet, health warnings, nutritional education and food labelling.
S Ross, UK

Cynically targeting children in the pursuit of profit is wrong
Jonathan, London

It's immoral. Cynically targeting children in the pursuit of profit is wrong. By all means advertise them to adults later in the day.
Jonathan, London

No, but it should be regulated. This is about teaching children that they can't have everything they see. Why is it always other people's responsibility about what children eat. It's down to the parents to give their children a balanced diet. There's always a ready excuse and it's time to take your share of the blame.
R Martin, UK

I think it should be banned because it does add to the child's "want" for these foods... leading to obesity..
Rhianna Topschij, Wauchope, Australia

The TV commercials are bad enough already, merciless in fact. Kids are very easy targets to all advertising, they see that it's popular and in demand and all the kids want it or like so should they. It's bad enough with toys, but as a parent I'm trying to teach good eating habits and a healthy lifestyle - day-glo orange macaroni and cheese or fluorescent sugar water doesn't fit the bill. What's worse, next comes body image issues!
Justine, Alexandria, VA, USA

Our local authority encourages Primary School children by giving them free fruit once a week. My daughter often surprises us by asking for plumbs or pears instead of chocolate and crisps.
G Dobie, Edinburgh, UK

I propose we ban primary colours and cartoon images from children's food packaging
Marc Brett, Teddington, UK

I propose we ban primary colours and cartoon images from children's food packaging and legislate that they all be displayed on shelves at least 5 feet high. Every shopping trip puts me at the mercy of marketing experts who use database miners, psychologists, and statisticians all of whom are shamelessly TRYING to turn my children into whining parasites who need just one more sugar fix to make them happy, pleeeeze. I'm fed up with them all (the marketers, that is, not my kids).
Marc Brett, Teddington, UK

Ban it!!!! The food companies will scream and sue, so go further..... Tax them for the extra billions in cost that obesity has cost the taxpayer!!! Sensible government at last!!! Will Tony have the nerve?
Philip O'Donnell, NZ

No, it is the job of responsible adults to educate the child what food is 'good' and 'bad'. Maybe the government should advertise alternatives?
Rick, London, England

It should never be the job of the government to regulate the stupidity of your offspring.
Jack, USA

Why should I put up with advertising induced pestering and the following tears?
Julie, Stockton, UK

As a parent I say no to my three year old but why should I put up with advertising induced pestering and the following tears? And could we also stop putting children's favourites such as Thomas and Fimbles on sugar and fat loaded snacks. It's nothing more than a deliberate marketing ploy to attract little ones turning them into consumers before they are out of nappies. Adults - fine - advertise as much as you like. We can recognise we are being conned.
Julie, Stockton, UK

I buy it, I cook it, they eat it - if not they go hungry. Stop whining about television being so bad - you have the ultimate control over it SWITCH IT OFF. It's the same with shopping - don't buy it. Who rules these homes, or maybe I am a cruel and heartless mother asking my own children to plan what they watched and made them eat a proper cooked dinner every night.
AJ, Bristol

Of course it should be banned along with all the adverts for loans, ringtones and household products, leave our kids alone!!!
Dave, Portsmouth

Of course it should
Stacey Turner, UK (ex-USA)

Of course it should; every time I go to the supermarket, children are mewling at their parents to buy them the junk food they see advertised on TV...and most of the parents end up buying it. However, there is a much deeper issue; children should not be watching as much TV as they do anyway. Parents in the Western world use TV as a babysitter, and that has to stop.
Stacey Turner, UK (ex-USA)

I think that advertising food which is aimed at children should be banned on children's TV (As should the advertising of toys) to stop the "I want" mentality which only leads to greed.
Alan, Glasgow, Scotland

It isn't the TV advertising that we should take issue with. It is the feeble parents, who through their lack of discipline and control 'abuse' their spoilt kids by over feeding them. They should learn to resist the 'I want, I want, I want' rantings and become proper parents.
James Murphy, Dorset, UK

All adverts should be banned during TV aimed at children under the age of 12. Children should be taught about advertising at school so they understand what it is trying to do to them.
Ray, Soton, UK

Watching an advert doesn't make kids fat
Moo, London, UK

Watching an advert doesn't make kids fat. That is absurd! Their food intake is decided by the parents so THAT is where the responsibility lies!
Moo, London, UK

It is the role of parents to protect their children from excess.
Kevin Baca, California

Yes indeed!! However, there is little chance that it will happen. Food companies don't care who purchases their products, nor do they care if their products are healthy. What really counts to them is the total expense of their adverts and the return that they get on their investment. The commercial media have adapted an attitude that allows us to bombard impressionable youngsters with ideas which will make their products profitable.
Jay, Dania Beach, Florida, USA

Very simple - I've always said NO when my children see an advert and say they want to try it. I then explain to them why - what the food contains, that it's no good for them, look at how fat some of their peers are etc. Now they never ask.
Charles Waddams, Auckland, New Zealand

Not television but parents/care-givers are responsible for children's eating habits. But besides that, I would like all advertising on television to be banned.
Harriet, Singapore





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