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Obesity: time for the industry to act

26th May 2004

The Food Commission, the UK's leading independent consumer voice on food, welcomed the House of Commons Select Committee obesity report (published tomorrow, 27th May 2004) and urged the food and advertising industry to accept their responsibility for adding to children's bad eating practices.

"The average child sees more than 5,000 advertisements for junk food every year," said Food Commission director Dr Tim Lobstein. "Parents and teachers cannot hope to compete with this barrage of bad messages and corrupting influence. It leads to family friction at meal-times and tearful toddlers in the supermarket."

Although the Select Committee called for a ban on advertising of junk food to be brought in voluntarily, the Food Commission wants regulation now in order to protect children’s health and to give food companies an urgent incentive to improve the nutritional quality of their products. An advertising ban would also make the marketplace fairer for companies producing healthier food.

"Voluntary bans will not work," said Dr Lobstein. "We have seen voluntary marketing codes repeatedly broken by baby milk manufacturers, and some of the same companies, such as Nestlé, are involved. It will take a law to make advertising controls stick."

The Food Commission praised the Select Committee for its calls for a cabinet-level public health initiative, and for targets to be set for reducing obesity levels in children and adults alike. "With more than a quarter of primary school children overweight, and a rising number of cases of childhood type 2 diabetes, it is time for urgent action," said Dr Lobstein.

Useful resources

The Food Commission supports The Children's Food Bill coordinated by Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming. The Children's Food Bill calls for the introduction of legislation to protect children from the advertising and promotion of unhealthy food and drink.
More information at http://www.sustainweb.org/child_index.asp