The ways that foods are marketed to children has been an issue hotly debated for many years. So is the end in sight for junk food advertising to children?
We’ve one of the worst rates of childhood obesity in the world, but foods high in fat, sugar and salt can still be marketed to children in a variety of ways.
The evidence shows (unsurprisingly given the purpose of advertising) that advertising consistently influences food preference, choice and purchasing in children and adults. And our research has repeatedly shown that people think this is an area that the Government should tackle.
Taking on junk food advertising
Well there’s now an opportunity to try and address this once and for all.
The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), the industry body that sets the standards for food advertising, launched a consultation this week on new non-broadcast rules for food advertising to children.
CAP said that this consultation is in response to wider societal concerns around childhood obesity, as well as the need to ensure the advertising rules reflect changing media habits among young people. The Government will also launch a wider Childhood Obesity Strategy later this year.
There are already some restrictions in place, but they leave many gaps.
Our campaigning helped to ensure that there are restrictions in place on the ways foods high in fat, sugar and salt are advertised on TV. But rules on other media, including digital marketing (social media, blogs and advergames) are limited.
With more traditional media, such as the use of food packaging and sponsorship, there aren’t many rules, and as a result a lot of marketing of unhealthy foods to both younger children and teenagers.
TV rules still aren’t perfect either – you only have to watch early evening programmes to see that they leave children exposed to junk food advertising.
CAP has indicated that it’s looking to apply a similar approach to TV to non-broadcast. That would mean the rules would cover children up to 16 and be focused on restricting foods high in fat, sugar and salt, while allowing healthier foods to be advertised.
We’ll be feeding into this consultation and the obesity strategy more generally to help make sure that controls are robust enough and cover the breadth of integrated media that children engage with – media which can often be difficult for adults to understand and keep track of.
So what sorts of advertising techniques frustrate you the most? Are there types of marketing that you think we should be particularly highlighting as part of this consultation?