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Tuesday, 11 July, 2000, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
Should we clamp down on junk food ads?

Crisps, chocolate, fizzy drinks and burgers are the kind of foods that most children would love to eat all the time, but is it because it's what they see on television?

Leading UK supermarket, the Co-op, has announced it will no longer advertise products that are high in fat, sugar and salt during children's television programmes.

They say such adverts blackmail parents into buying unhealthy food for their children. The Co-op is also boycotting the use of character and cartoon merchandising on some of its own brand products.

Do you think it's about time we clamped down on junk food ads? How can we make a healthy diet more appealing to children? Tell us what you think. HAVE YOUR SAY



A little of what you fancy does you good!

Paul Charters, England
Kids shouldn't be taught just how bad junk food is, but more importantly how to have a healthy dose of everything. A little of what you fancy does you good!
Paul Charters, England

Not only should there be a total ban on advertising junk food in the media, the places marketing this low nourishment type of food should be banned as well.
S. Arnold, Australia

Banning junk-food ads at certain times of the day is the first step towards the elimination of free speech. Freedom of speech includes freedom of commercial speech. Kids have always liked junk food, long before there were ads for it on TV. The cause of increasing obesity among children is because of less physical activity and because they see a lot less of their parents than thirty years ago.
Jeff, USA

Cardiovascular diseases are the plague of the Western world. So if we are campaigning against tobacco why not fight junk food. One thing that people keep forgetting is that once the arteries start clogging (from young age) the damage has begun and is irreversible.
Helen, UK



Since when are burgers and sweets lethal?

Sunny Chia Bart Por, Singapore

If this imposing attitude of "how we should, eat, drink, smoke" etc carries on, it will not be long before we will be abolishing our democracy and return to the dark, totalitarianistic ages. I am responsible for my children's menu and as they are fit as punch, I do not mind them eating a burger or so once in a while.
Han de Min, Netherlands

Doesn't this constitute a violation of our rights? Since when are burgers and sweets lethal? Put it frankly, I do not like to be told or even reminded of what I eat or give my children to eat. Just leave us parents alone.
Sunny Chia Bart Por, Singapore



A civilised society regulates itself to protect its weakest members and I think young children qualify

Dave, UK

Any fast food company can advertise whenever and wherever it wants. We cannot stop advertising just because we dislike the product as long as the product is legal of course
Mike , UK

With children eating junk food at school and when they are out with their friends, is it too much to ask for parents to provide suitable meals at home? When kids are falling prey to drugs, smoking and rising crime rates I think junk food is the least harmful thing to worry about!
Tristan Abbott-Coates, UK



Why not force all TV adverts to have a warning at the end, much like the "small print" read out after pharma-product adverts or on cigarettes?

Richard Holmes, Switzerland

I think we should clamp down on ads full stop. It's not just with food that the market is holding consumers at ramsom and I think it's immoral and crude how publicity companies and marketting departments will ruthlessly target children (as one example) in order to sell whatever -usually substandard- commodity they have been assigned to flog. As George Orwell once wrote: 'Advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill-bucket' which just about describes the advertisers attitude to just about everyone else (in order of vunerablilty and economic potential).
Benj'min Mossop, Britain

Why not force all TV adverts to have a warning at the end, much like the "small print" read out after pharma-product adverts or on cigarettes? Something like "One or two hamburgers a week will not affect your health if you exercise regularly. If you eat more, we must warn you that these hamburgers are regarded as unhealthy."
Richard Holmes, Switzerland

I don't wish to stop people eating and drinking whatever they like, but I would like to stop certain advertisers from doing their best to brainwash my children into wanting their products. A civilised society regulates itself to protect its weakest members and I think young children qualify.
Dave, UK

Between the age of 11 and 16, I was taught cookery and nutrition at school. It was great. It has enabled me to appreciate all types of culinary delights. It wasn't all boring stuff we cooked either, it was a good mix of things from curries to casseroles, cakes to pizza. If kids aren't educated, either at home or school, how are they to know that it isn't good to pig out on burgers and fries everyday?
Nic Jardes, UK

This proposal is certainly ridiculous. I'm not standing up for the fast food industry but what's the point of banning ads in supermarkets only. Youngsters can still receive the wrong messages from TV, radio and even the Internet. The only way to promote a healthier diet is to ban junk food at the market, which is only a impractical dream.
Sean KY Lam, Hong Kong

Much of the debate here seems to centre round parents' ability (or otherwise) to say no to the demands of their children. Being told "no" as a child is all very well, and the child may even agree with the parent's reasoning. But it's of little help when you go to school, armed with the knowledge that chips and burgers are bad for you, and they are being served up for school dinners every day.
Kate, England



It seems that all food specifically aimed at children is 'junk' food

Sean Smith, England

It seems that all food specifically aimed at children is 'junk' food. How can they develop a taste for anything healthy or subtle if the manufacturers don't provide it for them?
Sean Smith, England

The truth is that too much of anything is bad for you. Perhaps a better tactic would be to make the 'healthier' foods more popular through advertising, rather than making fast food the underdog by banning adverts of it.
Niles Calder, UK

Some complain of a "nanny state" and free choice, but not everyone is in a position to make that choice and often governments must decide for the longer term good. I am very concerned at the growing level of obesity in the UK as well as the general health trends, and something must be done about it. I think legislation would be a good first step to a healthier society, as well as to protect children and parents alike.
John Wallace, UK

Kids play a huge part in influencing buyer behaviour; but, parents should be able to discipline their kids and try and instil the benefits of eating healthily. And why not let their child eat "unhealthily" occasionally - as I am sure we all have!
Nik Ruparel, London, UK



The other vegetarian child in the class began to eat meat again, in the face of these food bullies

Vicky Dunn

I clearly recall being bullied at school over the contents of my packed lunch box: brown bread sandwiches, carrot sticks, cereal bars, fresh fruit. The other vegetarian child in the class began to eat meat again, in the face of these food bullies. Kids pick on whatever is "different:" and the norm is the junk food diet presented by TV advertising. In matters of food, Mum didn't say No, she said Why - and I thank her for imparting healthy, ethical eating habits for life. It just isn't true that kids prefer junk food, they are manipulated by advertising, amplified by playground peer pressure.
Vicky Dunn, UK

You shouldn't be 'clamping down' on anything like this. We need to stop applying this 'traffic warden' habit of mind to everything. The children get their money from their parents. If the parents are too weak or stupid to say 'no' to their children, that's up to them. Otherwise we end up looking to 'higher command' to tell us how to live our lives in every detail.
Justin Rosa, UK

The only law change we need here is protection from the hordes of panicky fools and nanny-statists who keep coming up with "there ought to be a law". No, there oughtn't, except to the extent necessary to DEFEND RIGHTS - including the right to put up adverts on your own property, or pay someone else to do so.
Julian Morrison, England



Hooray for the call for healthy fast food! How about a 'McRice Cake?!

Harriet Daly, UK

Hooray for the call for healthy fast food! I LOVE fast food but realise that it's not great for me but there isn't much alternative when out and about. How about a 'McRice Cake?!
Harriet Daly, UK

I believe that the advertisers should be more responsible. Bombarding children with junk food adverts does influence them. The parents are then faced with the pressure from the children. If it was healthy food I would not mind! One of the comments that have been raised is that all parents have to do is to say NO! Do children always obey what their parents say?
Bob Dutt, UK

I agree with the theory that advertising pitches children against their parents and I commend the co-op for their actions. However, as a fitness instructor I believe that education is the key. In a society driven by self image perhaps we should play even more on the cause and effect of poor diet with regard to obesity. I long for the health promotion which comes from the cause and effect angle: Eat enough of these and within a couple of months you'll look like this...etc.
Davyd Parry, UK

I'm completely in support of reducing the 'child-friendly' advertisement of high fat / sugar / salt foods, but think it is not necessary to ban the ads completely. If adverts do have a great effect on peoples' diets, perhaps we should be urging the retailers to put a little more focus on using their child-friendly gimmicks to encourage children to eat more fruit. For every 'unhealthy snack' ad they could be compelled to advertise a 'healthy' one.
Frankie Robinson, UK



The term "pester power" gives a fairly accurate idea what the aim is - and it smacks of a serious lack of ethics

Peter Houppermans, England

The aim for advertising is to sell product indiscriminately. I'm not sure a "ban" is a good idea in general, but there is certainly good cause to introduce a more responsible attitude towards food and I include GM food in that debate. I have more issue with the marketing towards children who are not yet able to discern fact from fiction and setting them effectively up against their parents who want them to stay and eat healthy. The term "pester power" gives a fairly accurate idea what the aim is - and it smacks of a serious lack of ethics.
Peter Houppermans, England

When parents can say no to themselves, they can say no to their children. Not all junk food is going into the mouths of babes.
Faye, USA

I am 48 and have never been inside a McDonalds, am I missing something? If I eat meat I prefer to know where it has come from.
Iwan Turzanski, Netherlands

All this makes me recall an oft-used word when I was a child. It was a word that was used frequently by parents (remember them?). It was a simple word that set limits and established parental authority over most aspects of a child's life. It was a word that was challenged sometimes but seldom successfully. It was a word that harkens back to a vanished era when parents raised their children, not government or busybody organisations. The word was: No.
Peter C. Kohler, USA

Yes, there should be a clampdown on such advertising. Children are eating themselves ill. We have the same problem in the USA, with more adverts for candy, soda, burgers and other fast food, not to mention the whole range of sugary breakfast cereals that shouldn't even be classified as food. It's not about food fascism nor about directly controlling what people eat, so much as it is about lowering the television profile of unhealthy foods. It is about saving our children and theirs from a life of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and morbid obesity.
Sara, USA



If I'm fed up with one thing it is the "Food Fascists" telling us what we can eat

Steve Foley, England

If I'm fed up with one thing it is the "Food Fascists" telling us what we can eat. Funnily enough, when I meet these people in the flesh, they are a miserable, skinny, flatulent lot whereas meat and fast food eaters like myself are generally quite happy. As for fast food adverts and kids, all the anti-smoking adverts haven't stopped them, so all that banning adverts for "Big Macs" etc will do will be to give such products the "forbidden fruit" effect. Leave the kids and us alone!
Steve Foley, England

I don't like fast food unless it is cooked in a wok. But it is popular and legal and also good for the economy. As long as people are educated and encouraged to balance their diet, there is nothing wrong with promoting choice.
Tom, Australia

I don't think the Government, the ITC, the Co-op or any other self-appointed "food-police" should regulate such advertising. Nobody forces anyone to buy any particular type of food, and I don't want anyone restricting food-adverts but, alas, I suspect it will come. Better eat all the junk food you can, before they introduce a tax on it.
Pete Morgan-Lucas, Wiltshire, UK

As the saying goes: "If you don't smoke, drink or eat junk food, you will live longer...or it will certainly SEEM longer".
Paul, UK

I am not a parent, but a babysitter for two under tens and they demand junk food. All other food is "boring". Kids should be taught how bad fat, sugar, salt and e-numbers are for them
John Scott, UK



A ban on advertising would be simply another form of censorship

John, UK

It's interesting to see just how many people exercising their right of free speech on the internet are calling for yet another ban. A ban on advertising would be simply another form of censorship and we already have enough of this in our lives. Where will it end? Should we also ban the advertising of sports shoes, computer games, pokemon cards which all have the potential to damage when used to excess.
John, UK

Contrary to what Geoff thinks, hamburgers - even those produced by the wonderful McDonalds - aren't bad for kids in moderation. Moderation in all things is all that's needed.
Iain, UK

The funny thing about the advertising industry that purports to offer us "choice" is that it is based on coercion. The only advertising space worth anything is space people cannot ignore or switch off. Ask yourself, "Would I rather watch ads or something else?" It seems that people have been brainwashed into accepting that unavoidable ads are a fact of life.
Themos Tsikas, UK



Any parents worth their salt (like mine) should be able to say no

James Griffin, UK
Adverts are, of course, highly manipulative and effective. It's their job to sell the product, after all. Where adults are concerned, fine. They can say no, and make their own informed or not so informed decisions. The government has no business involving itself in this.
However, when children are concerned, they are not always able to make their own decisions, and I applaud the co-op's stance. Legislation limiting TV advertising of children's products and junk food is long overdue, if you ask me. On the other hand, any parents worth their salt (like mine) should be able to say no.
James Griffin, UK

A child's diet is the responsibility of the parent, NOT the ITC.
Alex S, UK



How many parents even consider reading the labels - or have the time to do so - with a demanding infant bellowing at their elbow?

Sam J, UK
Of course advertising has a profound effect on people, especially children. I have no TV, and when I want to buy a sweet treat for myself, I read packet labels and ingredients before making a considered choice. How many parents even consider reading the labels - or have the time to do so - with a demanding infant bellowing at their elbow?
Sam J, UK

McDonalds tastes GOOD! Junk food tastes GOOD! People like it! If you're worried about your health, go for a run, and stop blaming the government and big corporations for your own shortcomings.
M. Conomos, Australia



It would be great to see some healthy "fast" food so people have an alternative

Jason, UK
If you try and prevent people from doing something, they will do it more. It's human nature. Rather than focussing on what we can't do, why don't they focus on the benefits of healthy food? It would be great to see some healthy "fast" food so people have an alternative.
Jason, UK

Advertising certainly plays a key part in influencing people, especially children. However, perhaps more attention should be placed on school dinners and better parental education about the benefits of healthy food which can be presented in a more appealing and tasty way.
Simon Mulcary, UK

It is a part of Western consumerism but the worst thing is that all junk food is advertised and sold in massive quantities, which are supplemented with remedies and medicine. Why don't the big corporations spare food from their greedy marketing? We have only one life. Let us live a complete life, not as a recycling bin. The Co-op in the UK has made the first and bold step towards that.
Kadavul, USA



There seems to be a collective blindness to the far more pernicious propaganda of the advertising industry, financed by private corporations

Geoff Payne, England
The Government should, but it won't. It is not even prepared to say that hamburgers are bad for you, in case it upsets McDonalds. We have become so used to equating Government advice with the "Nanny State" that there seems to be a collective blindness to the far more pernicious propaganda of the advertising industry, financed by private corporations. A responsible way of communicating the pros and cons of a particular food would be based on intelligent, rational discussion. This is never done in advertising. Instead it manipulates people to buy products based on spurious pretexts.
Geoff Payne, England

The worst adverts of all come from TV cookery programmes - especially their effect on children. Children are taught that when they grow up they should be preparing meals full of butter, sugar, cream, oil, salt, and very little fibre, with less than the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables. It is no use having the occasional items and alternatives "for people who are watching their weight". Everybody should be watching their weight. Programmes such as "Fighting Fat, Fighting Fit" are rare exceptions which ease the broadcaster's conscience.
Mark Barlow, UK

I applaud the Co-op for making a stand, BUT the cynic in me wonders whether it is truly altruistic or just another publicity stunt. As a parent, I am under pressure to buy the stuff (why does all junk foods taste nice?) but I am a grown-up and perfectly capable of saying NO.
Lee Bailey, UK

In my day kids didn't get junk food - they got potatoes on a Friday and were grateful. Kids should be out working at a younger age. There wouldn't be all this crime and drugs. I fought a war for these kids and they shouldn't eat junk food.
Wally Hibbs, UK



Whatever happened to people standing on their own two feet and taking responsibility for their own and their children's actions?

Jenni, UK
Let's follow some of the EU countries and have no advertising of children's toys during children's programmes because it might give them ideas beyond their parents' pockets. Let's take out adverts from all magazines and newspapers children might read. Heaven forbid they might be introduced to new and exciting products or treats through advertising. Whatever happened to people standing on their own two feet and taking responsibility for their own and their children's actions?
Jenni, UK

Tobacco, alcohol and now fatty foods. Surely we should be educating people about the risks of these products rather than trying to stop them being advertised. Inform the masses and then let people make their own decisions on what to feed themselves or their children. That does mean that we have to try and educate people, rather than trying to rely on this increasingly "Nanny State" attitude.
Trev, UK

Look, we live in a consumer society which, let's face it, has improved our standard of living, introduced us to new ideas and products, and generally provided jobs and opportunities. The downside involves products and services that some of us do not want or even disapprove of. However, we learn to discriminate and we make our choices. Banning something or "passing a law" to stop the use of something we can buy in any store stinks of the Nanny State.
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

Certainly, adverts influence children. After all, that is who they are usually aimed at. However, whatever happened to parents? Remember them? All they have to do is say NO.
Tony Hague, England


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06 Jul 00 | Health
Supermarket bans junk food ads
01 Jun 00 | Health
Children 'eating themselves ill'
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