Letters Extra: Food for thought

21st May 2004 at 01:00
The TES recently published an article by Joanna Blythman (3042004) and a letter from Jenny Jones (752004), Deputy Mayor of London, both of which made mention of and supported "a ban on junk food advertising" to children and as such I feel obliged to respond on behalf of our membership.

Ms Blythman refers to a ban on food advertising to children as a forward-thinking, public health measure.nbsp;In fact, experience has shown that banning food advertising to children has little overall effect on their weight.nbsp;Sweden and Quebec have had bans on TV advertising to children for around 20 years, but this has had no discernable impact on the levels of obesity.

As a matter of accuracy, Finland does not have a ban on food advertising to children (as perhaps implied by Ms Blythman), and in general actually has more lenient advertising regulations than the UK.nbsp;Indeed, advertising regulations in the UK are amongst the strictest in the world.nbsp;For example, advertisers are not allowed to communicate excessive consumption or frequency; snacks cannot be portrayed as main meal substitutes; and showing snacking pre-bedtime is forbidden.nbsp;These codes are mandatory, strictly adhered to by the industry and currently under review.

As a matter of interest, Finland has been more successful at improving health than Sweden. Through a series of other community-based and national activities including improving school food, public education campaigns and increasing activity, the Fins have had real success in lowering coronary heart disease and tackling obesity.

The comparison between Finland and Sweden highlights an important point - focusing on food advertising bans (or other short-term responses) as a means of solving obesity or improving health would be fruitless.nbsp;We would urge all those genuinely interested in improving diets and tackling obesity to support initiatives that are proven to be effective.nbsp;As shown by Finland, using advertising as an ally rather than an adversary, can be highly beneficial.
Jeremy Preston
Director of the Food Advertising Unit
The Advertising Association

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