Calls for ban on unhealthy ads during family shows

Advertising unhealthy foods during family TV shows should be banned, MPs have said, as they called on the Government to introduce a “sugar tax” on soft drinks.

Portion sizes, especially in fast food-style dishes, raise fat levels. Picture: PA

In a wide-ranging report, members of the House of Commons’ health committee said the Government must not “take the easy option of relying on health education campaigns” and promoting exercise to solve the UK’s obesity crisis.

Instead, they said something “far more ambitious” was needed, calling for Jamie Oliver-style graphic warnings on the side of fizzy drinks saying how many spoonfuls of sugar a single serving contains.

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Furthermore, a 20 per cent tax on full sugar soft drinks should be introduced, with all the money raised spent on preventing childhood obesity.

Other recommendations include a ban on unhealthy food advertising before the 9pm watershed during TV programmes enjoyed by families, such as the X Factor.

Buy-one-get-one-free and other deals on unhealthy foods in supermarkets should also face “strong controls”, with a ban on supermarkets placing sweets and other less healthy foods at the ends of aisles and checkouts.

New guidelines must also be drawn up on what constitutes a healthy school packed lunch, with teachers able to guide those parents who continue to give their children unhealthy foods.

The use of cartoon characters and celebrities in children’s advertising should also face tighter restrictions, while rules that claim a breakfast cereal which has 22.5 per cent sugar content is not a high sugar food must be changed, the report said.

While the food industry should be invited to join voluntary “reformulation” schemes to drive down the amount of sugar or fat in their foods, it must be made clear that a failure to comply would lead to enforced regulation, the MPs added.

The MPs also called for smaller portion sizes, saying they are becoming “larger and larger”, for example the introduction of “bottomless cups” in restaurants.

Chairwoman of the health committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston, a GP, said: “We believe that if the Government fails to act, the problem will become far worse. A full package of bold measures is required and should be implemented as soon as possible.

“We believe that a sugary drinks tax should be included in these measures with all proceeds clearly directed to improving our children’s health.”

Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, described the report as a “breath of fresh air”. “If the Government follows this, we will be strides ahead in solving the obesity problem,” he said,