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Call for watershed on junk food ads to tackle childhood obesity

Should junk food ads be banned before 9pm?
Should junk food ads be banned before 9pm?

The Government must change the narrative around childhood obesity to make it clear that this is everyone’s business, say the Health and Social Care Committee in their report into childhood obesity.

The Committee has identified several key areas which demand attention as a matter of urgency by the Government before the next chapter of the plan is finalised.

The report endorses calls for a 9pm watershed on junk food advertising, saying there is a need to be a ban on brand generated characters or licensed TV and film characters from being used to promote HFSS (high fat, sugar and salt) products on broadcast and non-broadcast media, and the Government must align regulations on non-broadcast media with those for broadcast media.

The committee says it is also urging the Government to level the playing field for retailers and act to ban confectionery and other unhealthy foods from the ends of aisles and checkouts.

It calls for targets to improve rates of breastfeeding, to combat childhood obesity, and urge a full and timely implementation of all of the school-centred measures contained in the original 2016 Child Obesity Action Plan.

Chair of the Committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, said: “Children are becoming obese at an earlier age and staying obese for longer.

“Obesity rates are highest for children from the most disadvantaged communities and this unacceptable health inequality has widened every year since records began.

“The consequences for these children are appalling and this can no longer be ignored.

“We want to see a whole systems approach and for local authorities to be given the powers they need to reduce childhood obesity in their communities. “Health needs to be made an objective within the planning and licensing system.

“Government needs to further help reduce childhood obesity by introducing tougher restrictions on the marketing and advertising of junk food, including by bringing in a 9pm advertising watershed.

It should also act to protect children by banning the offers and displays that push high volume sales and impulse buying of junk food and drink. I welcome the sugary drinks levy that has already played a vital role in driving reformulation and call for this to be extended to milky drinks which contain added sugar.”