The Labour Party have announced plans to ban junk food ads during primetime television if they are elected.
The measure would be part of a new £250 million-a-year scheme to try to ensure that UK children start losing weight and become healthier.
The Labour Party have made a pledge in their manifesto to halve childhood obesity within 5 years of control of the country. They would ban junk food adverts from television until after the 9pm watershed as part of a bid to make this happen. This would keep the ads out of primetime television shows which are popular with younger viewers, such as The X Factor.
“We are going to apply the rules currently applied to children’s TV and apply that to TV more generally, so when you’re sat down with your children, as I do, watching X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent, you’re not going to be seeing adverts for junk food,” Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “This isn’t the only measure to help us tackle obesity, but a number of children are watching these shows and there is research that children see the adverts for McDonald’s and hassle their parents to go there. I do take my children to McDonald’s, but it’s all about doing it in moderation.”
Labour announced that they won’t be challenging food manufacturing companies to change the content of their products, reducing the amount of fat, salt, or sugar content they use. However, Ashworth did express a hope that tighter laws on advertising would encourage a change.
“I think Ribena, for example, are changing their sugar content [in response to the sugar tax], so there’s no reason why food companies cannot do similar. If they want to advertise their foods on Britain’s Got Talent, they can reduce the salt, the sugar, the fat content,” he said. “We think this is an important place to start, I don’t want to be overly heavy-handed but we have to do something, this is costing the NHS £6bn and if we can reduce that bill then we can be putting that money to frontline care.”
Current legislation bans high fat, high salt, and high sugar products from children’s television. With the proposed plans, the ban would extend to all programmes shown before 9pm.
Additional Health Measures
Ashworth announced plans to ensure that the next generation of British children would be “the healthiest in the world”. Additional reforms would include investing in school nurses and counselling services in primary and secondary schools, ensuring that health is always looked after.
The party are also considering changes to food packaging which would make fat content clearer. Though they won’t go so far as cigarette-style packaging which relies on shock tactics, they want to ensure that everyone knows what they are eating.
Their new child health bill would write the changes into law, helping the UK to raise healthier children and forcing government departments to come up with child health strategies that make a real difference.
Campaigners for child health have complained about the existing TV ban, saying that it does not go far enough. The TV programmes that children watch don’t just include the ones that are aimed at them, they say – with examples like Britain’s Got Talent not included in the ban because of their adult audience.
Labour say that their new proposal would cut the amount of junk food adverts seen by children by 82%. If they are right, it could certainly go a long way towards fighting the obesity epidemic which children in the UK are facing currently.