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Junk Food Outcry As Obesity Soars

Main Image 14 October 2017 | Adam Berry

There has been an outcry against junk food adverts being shown in the UK, part of a backlash as it has been revealed that obesity costs are due to go up by 60%.

A study has been released which forecasts the huge jump in fees for the NHS due to current obesity rates.

Obesity crisis rising

The World Health Organisation has said that urgent and widespread action is currently needed to fight against obesity. There has been a rise of ten times the global obesity rate since the 1970s, and the UK has been hit hard. One in five children in the UK is now classed as obese.

The World Obesity Federation have found that the UK is spending more than £14 billion every year treating obesity and the side effects that it can cause. These include diabetes, heart disease, and liver disease.

The forecast suggests that it could rise to £22.7 billion by 2025, by which time 34% of UK adults could be obese.

The UK currently sees food brands spending around 27 times more on their advertising than the government does on promoting healthy diets. This means that they are fighting a losing battle, with cautions about health being drowned out by the displays of tasty food on screen.

The 18 most prolific companies had spent £143 million on advertising crisps, sweets, and sugary drinks. Meanwhile, the government’s Change4Life campaign spent just £5 million during the same period.

The most spend-happy company was Cadbury’s Dairy Milk at more than £12 million, while Coco-Cola and Galaxy were quick to follow. It’s clear that food sales and marketing jobs can be very lucrative, though that could change if the campaigners get their way.

Call for bans

In light of the statistics, there have been renewed calls to get rid of junk food ads, particularly those which may appeal to children. TV advertising is currently in the firing line, with a coalition of Royal Colleges and health charities getting together to speak out. They say that the adverts should be totally banned during peak viewing times as well as during children’s viewing hours.

"We need to turn our concern into action - more action and more widespread action. The response so far has been insufficient, inadequate and not at scale,” says Professor Fiona Bull, a member of WHO. "We are surrounded by environments which market unhealthy, high fat, high sugar, high calorie food. That's what's on the TV, that's what's promoted at bus stops, and that's what children are seeing all day, every day. The promotion and the price and the specials, the two-for-ones, the super-sizing - these are the problems that drive overweight and obesity, over-consumption."

Other groups are speaking out about other forms of marketing. While TV adverts may have a big impact at peak viewing times, such as during the X Factor shows, there are other places where children and teens see adverts.

Social media is a big place for concern, with apps such as Instagram allowing adverts to pop up regularly in the feed and be shown multiple times to the same person. Especially in younger teens, who may be browsing unsupervised while away from home, this can have a devastating effect on their dietary choices.

There is already a sugar tax due to be introduced in 2018, but now WHO is calling for restrictions on promotions as well as further taxes on any foods which are high in sugar. Professionals in new product development jobs may find a challenging time ahead, with demands to reduce sugar content or pay more for each sale.

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