Britain targets child obesity with ban on junk food ads

junk foodLONDON (AFP) - The UK is to ban adverts for junk food on children's television in a bid to clamp down on the growing problem of child obesity.

Under the plans announced Friday by the Ofcom broadcasting regulator, no ads for food and drink products which are high in fat, salt and sugar will be able to be broadcast during programmes aimed at under-16s.

The measures will cost broadcasters up to 39 million pounds (74 million dollars, 58 million euros) in lost advertising revenues.

But consumer and health groups protested that they did not go far enough -- saying that junk food ads should be banned from all programming before 9:00 pm, whether for adults or children.

Philip Cullum, chief executive of the National Consumer Council, said he was "very disappointed" with the proposals, since they don't cover a number of pre-9:00 pm shows watched by children.

"This doesn't really get to the heart of the issue. They say they have taken a focus on children, but the proposals actually don't deliver that," he said.

But Ofcom head Ed Richards defended the decision, saying a total pre-9:00 pm ban would cost broadcasters more than 250 million pounds per year in lost revenue.

"The pre-9:00 pm ban would constitute a loss of revenue roughly five times the total amount spent on children's production each year in the UK outside the BBC. We judge that to be disproportionate," he said.

Britain's status as the fat man of Europe was confirmed by a government report last month showing that adult obesity rates in Britain were the highest in Europe at 24 percent -- and children are rapidly catching up.

In August, a report forecast that 19 percent of boys aged between two and 15 years old and 22 percent of girls will be obese by 2010, compared to 33 percent of men and 28 percent of women at the same time.

Child obesity was forced up the political agenda in Britain last year by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's campaign for better school dinners, which led to ministers announcing an extra 280 million pounds funding.

source - AFP