All junk food advertising for children should be banned in a bid to combat childhood obesity, health experts have warned.
A 9pm watershed on junk food adverts should be implemented across all media devices and channels to protect children from the harmful effects of marketing of foods high in fat, sugar and salt, according to a report compiled by a 44-strong group of charities and health campaigners including Obesity Action Scotland and TV chef Jamie Oliver.
The group said this 9pm watershed should include live TV, TV on demand, radio, all types of online, social media, apps, in-game, cinema and digital outdoor advertising.
Current rules, introduced for TV in 2007 and online in 2017, only restrict junk food adverts when a TV show, film or website is designed specifically for children or considered to be “of particular appeal” to them.
They do not cover the times when children are likely to be watching “family” shows such as the X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent, which generally screen between 6pm and 9pm.
Lorraine Tulloch, programme lead of Obesity Action Scotland, said: “We know that junk food adverts influence what children eat and contribute to childhood obesity. The current restrictions don’t cover family viewing time or popular Saturday night TV viewing.
“We need to ensure they are protected from junk food adverts on all forms of media. It’s time for government to step up and take action to protect the health of our children.”
The group carried out a poll which found that 69 per cent of people agree that children seeing junk food marketing contributes to childhood obesity, while around 70 per cent support a 9pm watershed.
Malcolm Clark, policy manager at Cancer Research UK, said: “Young children who spent more than half an hour a day online, where advertising can be prolific, were almost twice as likely to pester their parents for junk food, according to a recent Cancer Research UK report. There is strong evidence that suggests time spent online and watching TV increases the likelihood that children will ask for, buy and eat more unhealthy foods. If they didn’t, then the food industry wouldn’t spend so much on advertising.”
Caroline Cerny of the Obesity Health Alliance said: “A 9pm watershed across all types of junk advertising is the most effective measure to protect children from the harms of junk food advertising.”
The Scottish Government is currently exploring action on devolved aspects of advertising, while the UK government has promised a consultation on advertising restrictions.