It is reported that the restrictions that are to be placed on advertising junk food are likely to extend well beyond television to websites, computer games, cinemas, packaging, and school sponsorship. Reports also indicate that the proposals that were under discussion in Whitehall also include the use of loyalty cards in store, so that healthy foods could be promoted instead of junk food that normally contain high levels of salt, fat and sugar.
The measures are to be voluntary or compulsory depending on the response of the food industry. And is a part of a drive to reduce the ever-increasing levels of child obesity. The latest figures indicate that just under a third of children under 16 are overweight, and 17% are clinically obese. The government had promised in a 'White paper' it had published in late half of 2004, to take action against food manufacturers who target children if they do not come up with a satisfactory formula for self-regulation, before 2007.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA), which is leading the battle against junk food, has said that the proposals that were drawn up by media watchdog Ofcom, which include options that are based on restricting content, timing, sponsorship and volume of food and drink ads, are not enough and they should carry a full ban before the 9pm watershed.
Meanwhile on the other hand, the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) says that a pre-9pm ban on advertising all high fat, salt and sugar foods will not solve the problem of obesity, but will mean a multimillion-pound loss of advertising revenue to broadcasters. Stating that FSA's demands were sensationalist, misguided, and unjustified, they have come down heavily against them. The IPA questioned the FSA's right to call for such a ban as it is a single policy group and stated that it does not have the remit to consider wider social issues, such as exercise as part of healthy living, and thereby questions their legitimacy on the call for the ban.
Marina Palomba, a spokesperson for the IPA, said: "It is nonsense to accuse advertisers of making people fat, when some well-known food brands have been advertised on television for over 40 years. There is no such thing as bad food, only a bad diet. Obesity is about a calories in and calories out issue. And obesity levels have increased since playing fields have been sold off and compulsory sports removed from school curriculum's."
The Ofcom public consultation will close on the 30th of June and the IPA will be making a submission by the deadline.