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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 April 2006, 03:08 GMT 04:08 UK
Junk food child-ad rules 'a sham'
Child with junk food
Almost a third of children in the UK are now overweight
Plans to curb food advertising aimed at children have been dismissed as a "total sham", by consumer group Which?.

Media regulator Ofcom is consulting on restricting junk food ads but has ruled out banning their broadcast before 9pm.

Of 815 parents asked by Which?, 79% wanted the adverts banned at times when children were most likely to watch TV.

Ofcom says independent research carried out for it in 2004 indicates only 48% of parents want a pre-watershed ban and 24% want a total ban on junk food ads.

The regulator says a pre-watershed ban would cost broadcasters up to 240m every year in lost revenue.

But food and farming alliance Sustain has accused Ofcom of bowing to industry pressure.

Older children deserve protection too
Which? chief policy adviser Sue Davies

Under the regulator's plans, celebrities and characters from films or TV programmes would not be allowed to take part in any food or drink commercial targeted at the under-10s.

But Which? says the ITV1 shows most popular among four to 15-year-olds during one February fortnight were Dancing on Ice, Coronation Street and Emmerdale.

Chief policy adviser Sue Davies said Ofcom's plans "fail to tackle advertising of unhealthy food during the programmes most young children are watching".

She added: "Older children deserve protection too."

The government's White Paper on public health said children should not be encouraged to eat too many foods high in fat, salt and sugar.

Our proposals will reduce food advertising to children by 50%

Current estimates suggest just under a third of those under 16 are now overweight and 17% are obese.

Any changes to food promotion must be introduced by next year, the White Paper says.

Ofcom research indicates TV adverts have a "modest direct effect" on children's food choice.

But the combination of exercise, family eating patterns and school policy plays a much larger role in childhood obesity, according to the regulator.

An Ofcom spokesman said: "Our proposals will reduce food advertising to children by 50% and the content rules we have proposed will affect all of the remaining advertising for food and drink."

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