Food promotion controls to protect kids ‘are flawed’

Tougher controls are needed on the advertising of foods high in fat, sugar and salt to children, argues Which?

Pressure is mounting for the next UK government to introduce much tougher controls on the promotion and advertising of foods high in fat, sugar and salt to children.

Research has shown that people are “very supportive” of reductions in fat, sugar and salt in foods, Sue Davies, strategic policy adviser for consumer group Which?, told a recent seminar on sugar reduction policy, organised by the Westminster Food & Nutrition Forum in London.

“We need to build on the [government’s] childhood obesity plan to make sure work around reducing fat, sugar and salt levels continues; making sure there are regular reviews and further action if the targets aren’t being achieved. Promotions is one of those areas where we think there needs to be a lot more focus.”

While rules on promoting “unhealthy food” to children are being tightened – specifically around broadcasting restrictions and the Committee on Advertising Practice (CAP) review of the non-broadcast code – which comes into force on July 1, there were “still some gaps”, claimed Davies.

Use of cartoon characters

“There still are some outstanding issues and that reflects the flaws in the broadcast criteria,” said Davies. She referred specifically to the use of cartoon characters, which are used by some food brands – for example, the monkey used on Kellogg’s Coco Pops – and are targeted at children under 12.

Malcolm Clark, co-ordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign, agreed. “The rules on junk food marketing to children do not go far enough,” he said.

“What we need is a much clearer definition of what is child-targeted advertising … it doesn’t cover the packaging, and that is what we would like to see. And it also doesn’t cover these films and TV programme tie-ins.”

Davies remarked that price remained a barrier to people making heathier food choices. This was often linked to promotions, she added.

“People were concerned that when they see promotions in supermarkets they are predominantly on less healthy foods rather than on the healthy foods,” she said.

‘People were concerned’

She reported on the results of Which? research, conducted in conjunction with comparison website, which looked at offers between April and June 2016, from Asda, Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsbury, Tesco and Waitrose.

There were more than 77,000 promotions during this period, of which 53% were for less healthy products, said Davies. “But when you looked at specific categories, there were bigger differences,” she added. “So, there were a lot more promotions on confectionery than fresh fruit and vegetables.”

Davies also suggested that Brexit provided an opportunity for the UK to have a “joined up [food and agriculture] policy”.

“We don’t have to have completely separate debates about agriculture, about industrial strategy; and then debates about obesity, and how we deal with food safety,” she said.

“We can bring those altogether under a single framework.”

Related News

The ban, extended to cover all non-broadcast media was a ‘sticking plaster’: DWF

Kids’ sugar advertising ban is ‘choking the industry’

Obesity rates in reception age children has increased since 2014/2015

Child obesity rates continue to rise

The sugar tax was victimising part of the food sector already lowering its sugar content, Watkins said

Sugar tax is a ‘blunt instrument’ against obesity

Childhood obesity 'could be remedied by halting some food promotions'

Childhood obesity: ‘cut unhealthy food promotions’

UKactive: plans to work with food vendors, local authority leisure operators and local government

Childhood obesity plan to target leisure centre food

Free school meals are said to be a key weapon in the battle against obesity

Free school meals ‘help in fight against obesity’

Public Health England challenged manufacturers to reduce their products' sugar content by 5% by August this year

Manufacturers set target to cut sugar 20% by 2020

More than 20% of children are overweight or obese when they start school

More regulation may be needed after the sugar tax

Submit a comment

Your comment has been saved

Post a comment

Please note that any information that you supply is protected by our Privacy and Cookie Policy. Access to all documents and request for further information are available to all users at no costs, In order to provide you with this free service, William Reed Business Media SAS does share your information with companies that have content on this site. When you access a document or request further information from this site, your information maybe shared with the owners of that document or information.