Stricter ad regulation could have ‘nasty side effects’

By Laurence Gibbons

- Last updated on GMT

Calls for stricter regulation on TV advertising for 'junk' food have been dismissed
Calls for stricter regulation on TV advertising for 'junk' food have been dismissed

Related tags Advertising

Calls for stricter advertising regulation for ‘junk’ food from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) could have “nasty side effects”, according to the advertiser trade body ISBA.

BHF’s demands for tougher restrictions online and a ban on ‘junk’ food adverts before the 9pm watershed to protect children from making unhealthy choices were dismissed as “placebos”​ by ISBA.

Ian Twinn, ISBA’s director of public affairs, said the demands fell flat for two “simple”​ reasons.

“First, campaigners seem convinced that foods can be called ‘junk’,” ​he said. “Very few foods are.”

‘Nasty side effects’

“Secondly, the prescribed solutions, usually ad bans or exiling ads to late night, are placebos, which if taken seriously will not make people thin but have nasty side effects.”

Twinn claimed there was no such thing as ‘junk’ foods only ‘junk’ diets, exacerbated by a lack of exercise.

Obesity facts

  • In the UK child obesity among boys aged between two and 15 fell from 19.4% in 2004 and 16.6% in 2011.
  • The proportion of obesity among girls of the same age group fell from 18.8% in 2005 to 15.9% in 2011

Source: Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet: England 2013

“We need to continue educating children and parents on the issues of a healthy and responsible diet,” ​he added.

“The advertising industry is committed to this, but are the campaigners? Brands have shown they are prepared to go above and beyond our strict rules to advertise responsibly with our children’s health in mind.”

The UK had one of the tightest advertising regulation systems in the world, enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority, Twinn claimed.

But, Mike Hobday, director of policy at the BHF, said UK advertising regulations were weak.

“Loopholes in the system mean that every day millions of children are exposed to sophisticated marketing techniques specifically designed to lure them into unhealthy eating habits,”​ he claimed.

“This evidence shows that junk food ads are having a detrimental impact on children’s behaviour and are hindering parents’ efforts to get their children to eat healthily.

“We cannot allow companies to continue exploiting holes in the system at the expense of our children’s health. The government must act now to help give children a stronger chance at fending off future heart disease.”


A whopping 72% of parents with children aged 4 to 16 in Wales claimed to have been pestered by their children to buy ‘junk’ food they had seen advertised on television, BHF claimed.

The BHF polled more than 2,100 UK parents with children aged 16 and under. It claimed more than two fifths (44%) of parents in Wales with children aged four to 16 said they were badgered by their children at least once a week.

More than two fifths (42%) of parents surveyed in Wales also said they thought ‘junk’ food adverts on TV make it difficult to help their children eat a healthy diet.

Related topics Legal Obesity

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