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Row over child food adverts

Thursday June 30th, 2011

Food companies desperate for business are breaching agreements on advertising to children across Europe, it was claimed today.

The report from the International Association for the Study of Obesity led to renewed calls for regulation of junk food marketing.

Self-regulation has been introduced continent-wide by the European Commission.

But the report says there is no consistency across Europe in what foods are promoted to children and when advertisements can be shown on television.

Researchers found big differences between companies in how they interpreted voluntary agreements - on issues such as the use of toys to promote foods.

Researcher Dr Tim Lobstein said: “The situation is chaotic. The food industry is highly competitive and a company will always put its own interests first.

"The children’s food market is worth billions of Euros and the struggle for access is tantamount to civil war in the food industry. In this context self-regulation is ineffective and only serves to defer proper controls.”

Maura Gillespie, of the British Heart Foundation, added: "There are gaping holes in the current system and a number of significant marketing techniques are completely unregulated, including fun brand characters, packaging featuring games and competitions, and the sponsorship of events.

"We know one in three children in the UK is overweight or obese and so at an increased risk of heart disease later in life.

"The UK Government must protect our kids from the unwanted influence of junk food marketing through effective regulation of an industry driven by profit."

A junk-free childhood: Responsible standards for marketing foods and beverages to children. Tim Lobstein, Triin Parn and Ange Aikenhead, International Association for the Study of Obesity, June 2011.

Tags: Child Health | Diet & Food | Europe

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