Junk food advertising could be banned before 9pm in bid to tackle childhood obesity
Junk food advertising on TV and online could be banned before 9pm in a bid by the Government to crack down on childhood obesity.
The Department of Health and Social Care has begun a public consultation for the new watershed plan as part of efforts to tackle the growing "epidemic".
The number of children classed as seriously overweight is at a record high, while one in three youngsters leave primary school obese, according to the department.
Ministers expect up to 1,000 more children a year to need treatment for obesity-related problems such as diabetes and asthma by 2022-23.
Public Health Minister Steve Brine said: “The NHS is already preparing to treat more and more children for the serious effects of extreme obesity in the future, so we have a duty to address the underlying causes because we believe passionately in our NHS.”
Adverts for foods containing high levels of fat, sugar and salt will be consulted on, with the proposed ban hitting TV shows, online streaming and social media companies.
Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas have both backed the measure, with Ms Lucas adding: “This is now the first generation of children that will live shorter lives than their parents.”
A ban on junk food advertising around kids TV has been in place since 2007, while Transport for London imposed restrictions on the London Underground last month.
Obesity campaigners and doctors have also welcomed the bid.
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver said: “If we don’t find effective ways to improve our kids’ health, UK children will live shorter lives than their parents.
“It’s a fact that kids are hugely influenced by junk food ads – so the media and the food industry has a real opportunity here to do something about it.”
'AS SOON AS POSSIBLE'
President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Professor Russell Viner, also called for the 9pm watershed to be “implemented as soon as possible”.
According to research by the Obesity Health Alliance, crisp, confectionary and sugary drinks companies in the UK spend £143m a year on advertising, while the government spends £5m on healthy eating campaigns annually.
Caroline Cerny, of the coalition, said: “The evidence is clear – junk food adverts are impacting children’s health and the current regulations are outdated and riddled with loopholes.”
Cancer Research UK has also been lobbying for the reform.
In a study last year, the charity found watching one extra junk food advert a week, above the average of six, leads to children eating an extra 18,000 calories a year.
Adverts for foods such as butter, olive oil and meat will not be affected under the current proposals.