Food companies should voluntarily stop TV advertising of unhealthy food to children or face a legal ban, according to a report by MPs.
The health select committee report, which will feed into the government's public health white paper due this autumn, said that the food industry should commence a wide-ranging review of all forms of promotion, including advertising to children. It also called for companies to reduce the availability and promotion of unhealthy foods in schools.
It was up to the industry to address the growing problem of obesity and, if it had not done enough within three years, the government -- which has not ruled out a ban on advertising -- should regulate.
The report blamed the "food industry's relentless targeting of children through intense advertising and promotion campaigns" for the rise in obesity. However, Professor Gerard Hastings of the University of Strathclyde, one of the MPs' advisers, said that although marketing had a direct impact on children banning it was useless: "The industry will just pump all its resources into other areas. We need to be more radical."
MPs also recommended a cabinet-level public health committee to oversee targets across government, a move which the lobbying group the Food Commission welcomed.