Dr Hilary Cass, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, insists that the UK should make changes to regulations on TV adverts for “junk food” given the alarming rates of obesity among children and young people.
Dr Cass, who represents 11,500 children’s doctors across the country, believes the authorities need to put a restriction on unhealthy food advertising before 9pm to fight “commercial exploitation” of children that is detrimental to their health, she said in an interview with the Guardian. Existing TV advertising rules are not strict enough to tackle marketing campaigns for foods that have high levels of fat, salt or sugar. Indeed, some changes to junk-food ads around TV programmes aimed at kids have been made, however, young viewers are still exposed to adverts for unhealthy items during other programming and banning them before 9pm is the right thing to do, she said.
In order to further tighten control on unhealthy items, the government also needs to place additional taxes on soft drinks that have high sugar content and assess the effectiveness of “fat taxes” to slash junk food consumption, Dr Cass believes.
The Advertising Association, the industry’s trade body, countered Dr Cass’s call by saying that the proposal for introducing a 9pm watershed ignores academic evidence and neglects the actual reasons behind obesity among children. According to the association’s director of public affairs, Sue Eustace, UK advertising has some of the most stringent rules among European countries and the industry is doing its part in terms of the volume, visibility and content of food adverts.