Junk Food Ads: Fewer On TV, More In Print Media

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Fewer children are being exposed to junk food advertising on TV and child-themed advertising spend has decreased by 41 per cent since the beginning of 2003, according to a new report published by the Department of Health today.

This fall is most notable in TV advertising which fell sharply in 2007 with a drop of 46 per cent compared to 2003. In particular, there was less child-focussed advertising for confectionery, fast food restaurants, non-alcoholic drinks and cereals.

Child-themed advertising spend fell overall (from ?103 million in 2003 to ?61 million in 2007) - despite an increase in the annual spend on food and drink ads. However, this varied across all media:

TV - 46 per cent decrease in 2007 compared to 2003;

Press - 42 per cent increase (national and women's magazines) in 2007 compared to 2003;

Radio, internet and cinema - a combined increase of 11 per cent in 2007 compared to 2003.

Of the types of food being promoted there was a fall in 2007 compared to 2003 in those foods high in fat, salt or sugar being advertised:

Fast food - 71 per cent decrease.

Confectionery - 62 per cent decrease.

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Non-alcoholic drinks - 52 per cent decrease.

Cereal - 37 per cent decrease.

Dairy - 4 per cent increase.

The report, Changes In Food And Drink Advertising And Promotion To Children, shows the prevalence of advertising to children by the food and drink industry. It sets out details of an analysis carried out for the Department of Health on advertising across all media to children from January 2003 to December 2007. The report will form a baseline against which future child-themed advertising can be measured.

Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo said: "A third of children in the UK are either overweight or obese - so it's essential that we help our children make healthy choices in what they eat. The food and drink industry has a huge role to play in this.

"I am pleased that there are now fewer ads on TV that are tempting our children into bad eating habits - but we must keep our eye on other types of media. I hope that the industry will continue to play its part in reducing the exposure that children have to the promotion of food which is high in fat, salt or sugar."

This report is part of a raft of measures taken across Government to tackle the difficult subject of child obesity. The ?372 million backed Government strategy 'Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives' published at the beginning of the year, made it plain that children's diets are proportionally worse than adults. The future of children's health is of particular concern.

Government schemes such a 5 A Day, Healthy Start, Healthy Schools and the School Fruit and Veg Scheme aim to promote healthy eating and the increased consumption of fruit and vegetable consumption among young children, their parents and carers.

Change4Life, a new national movement launches this autumn before a major publicity campaign starts in January. This movement will help people throughout England to live healthier, more active lives.

The Government has also been working with Ofcom and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport on reviewing the effectiveness of the current restrictions on food and drink advertising to children. They are currently conducting a review to look at what industry is doing to improve the nature and balance of food promotion. The Ofcom review is expected to be published by the end of this year.

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