Ban looms for stars' junk food ads

Star-studded adverts, marketing campaigns and promotions aimed at getting children to buy the product or eat more junk food may be banned under new proposals being considered by the Department of Health.

Gary Lineker and David Beckham are just two celebrities who stand to lose lucrative marketing contracts worth multi-millions of pounds, should proposals banning celebrity and animated character endorsements be put into effect.

The restrictions, spelt out in a Department paper obtained by the Sunday Times, would ‘green light’ the use of brand-created characters in children’s packaging, internet and cinema adverts, yet would blanket ban the inclusion of famous faces – whether real or computer-generated.

”Role models for children should not be used to endorse…products [which are high in fat, salt or sugar]” the paper states, before adding detail on a crackdown on promotional gifts that make children buy the product for the gift, regardless of product content.

The proposals collectively aim for food and drink companies not to exploit the “credulity” or “inexperience” of children under 12, on product packaging, the internet or the cinema.

Broadcast regulator Ofcom is expected to support the proposals over the next few weeks, when it unveils similar restrictions governing television commercials.

Health campaigners have been loudly calling for a total ban on junk food adverts across all platforms and are expected to continue their protest should proposals take the likely course and become adopted as voluntary codes.

Depending on the review by the Food Standards Agency, author of the original proposals, some lobbyists fear companies will still be able to use celebrities in their adverts through loopholes in the wording of any ban.

The view as to what exactly constitutes ‘junk’ food for example, or ‘healthy’ food, has already been blurred by the FSA’s decision to publish some brands of sliced white bread and chicken tikka masala under the category of “healthier choices.”

The rollout of advertising restrictions could be accompanied by controls on what times advertisers are permitted to run their broadcasts, especially those ones promoting junk foods or products high in fat, sugar or salts.

Some leading advertisers are already ensuring their brands or promotions are not seen as primarily targeting consumers under 12.


14th November 2005

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