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Ban junk food ads before 9pm watershed to crack down on childhood obesity, MPs urge

3 min read

MPs have urged ministers to ban junk food adverts before the 9pm television watershed in a bid to halt the childhood obesity epidemic.

The TV ad ban is one of a raft of new measures proposed by MPs in a new report from the influential Health and Social Care Committee.

Other recommendations include banning the use of cartoon characters and celebrities to promote unhealthy treats, restricting discount promotions and stopping retailers from lining checkouts with chocolate and sweets.

According to the report, a "whole systemsa" approach is now required to combat soaring levels of childhood obesity after estimates that the NHS spent £6.1 billion in the last year on treating conditions related to obesity – more than the combined budgets for the police, fire service and judicial system.

A third of children are now obese, with 23,000 children leaving school this year being classed as severely obese – leading to an increased risk of diabetes, cancer and heart conditions.

The report found that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are at greater risk of becoming obese with children from the poorest families being twice as likely by age 5 to be obese than their better off counterparts, and three times as likely at age 11.

The Committee’s recommendations come ahead of Government plans to publish a refreshed version of the 2016 childhood obesity strategy.

Committee Chair Sarah Wollaston said: “Children are becoming obese at an earlier age and staying obese for longer. Obesity rates are highest for children from the most disadvantaged communities and this unacceptable health inequality has widened every year since records began. The consequences for these children are appalling and this can no longer be ignored.

“We want to see a whole system approach and for local authorities to be given the powers they need to reduce childhood obesity in their communities. Health needs to be made an objective within the planning and licensing system.

“Government needs to further help reduce childhood obesity by introducing tougher restrictions on the marketing and advertising of junk food, including by bringing in a 9pm advertising watershed.

“It should also act to protect children by banning the offers and displays that push high volume sales and impulse buying of junk food and drink. “

Ms Wollaston backed the Government's new sugary drinks levy which has driven the reformulation of many soft drinks. But she urged ministers to go further and extend the measures to sugary milkshakes.

Responding to the report, a spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “Childhood obesity is a complex problem, decades in the making.

“We have the most ambitious plan in the world to tackle it.

“We are in the process of working up an updated plan, and will be in a position to say more shortly.”

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