Page last updated at 18:58 GMT, Friday, 25 April 2008 19:58 UK

MPs block junk food advert ban

Junk food
The bill wanted a 9pm watershed on television ads of junk food

A bill calling for a ban on advertising junk food and drinks to children has been blocked by opposition MPs.

The Food Products (Marketing to Children) Bill aimed to make it an offence to promote "less healthy" foodstuffs to children.

Introduced by Labour MP Nigel Griffiths last year, it also wanted a 9pm watershed introduced for television advertising of unhealthy food.

However, critics have prevented the bill passing its second reading.

Mr Griffiths' bill also called for the introduction of restrictions on non-broadcast marketing.

800m a year

But Conservative opponents, including former minister Christopher Chope, said the change would do little to tackle obesity and insisted that parents are responsible for their children's' diets.

There is little evidence of a correlation between junk food advertising and obesity
Don Foster MP, Liberal Democrats

Mr Griffiths said tougher restrictions would help counter "pester power" from children for parents to buy less healthy food.

"Massive funding to advertise and promote junk foods - 800m a year - is undermining the efforts of parents to control the food and sugary drinks that children take, " he said.

TV adverts for junk food are already banned during shows aimed at under-16s.

Regulator Ofcom introduced the ban on January 1 2008, outlawing adverts for foods high in fat, salt and sugar in an effort to tackle rising childhood obesity levels.

Culture Minister Margaret Hodge said the government was committed to monitoring the impact of the TV ban which is already in place.

Nigel Griffiths MP
Tougher curbs would curb "pester power", Mr Griffiths said

Supermarket rows

"If the measures that we have taken so far fail to produce a change in the nature and balance of food promotion to children, we will take action to implement a clearly defined framework for regulating the promotion of food to children," she said.

"For broadcast advertising we can do that within the existing legislation - so we do not actually need a new bill," she added.

Liberal Democrat MP Don Foster was also unsupportive of the bill: "There is little evidence of a correlation between junk food advertising and obesity; we have got a new set of rules relatively recently introduced and there are more to come," he said.

However, some observers were disappointed that the bill failed to pass through the second reading.

Ruairi O'Connor of the British Heart Foundation said: "Junk food companies have been given a last shot to prove they can put the interests of children first, and take the issue of childhood obesity seriously, before the government will surely be forced to regulate."

Parents are tired of fighting the influence of cartoon superheroes and TV advertising in the supermarket aisles
Ruairi O'Connor, British Heart Foundation

"Parents are tired of fighting the influence of cartoon superheroes and TV advertising in the supermarket aisles," he added.

Bribes

Diabetes UK believes the measures proposed in the bill are needed to tackle increasing rates of childhood obesity.

Its chief executive, Douglas Smallwood, said: "Unless action is taken now to stem the rising numbers of children with Type 2 diabetes, we are exposing our children to increased risk of complications such as heart disease, kidney failure and blindness."

The British Heart Foundation said a survey they commissioned suggested almost one-third of parents leave their children at home to avoid rows during the supermarket shopping.

In a YouGov survey of 900 parents during April, 64% said they had actively tried to prevent rows, with 29% leaving their children at home.

Twenty-nine percent of parents bribed their children with something other than junk food and 19% avoided the confectionery aisle.




SEE ALSO
Call for junk food ad clampdown
18 Apr 08 |  Health
Junk food advert code launched
15 Mar 08 |  Health
Ban on junk food ads introduced
01 Jan 08 |  Health

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