Adverts for unhealthy foods are still appearing during TV programmes seen by children, despite curbs introduced in January, a consumer watchdog has said.
Which? said the five programmes with the most child viewers and only four of the top 20 most popular children’s shows were covered by Ofcom’s rules. These state that ads for “less healthy” foods are not allowed in or around programmes which “appeal” to under-16s. But advertisers said Which’s list included shows “not aimed” at children. A programme is defined as being of particular appeal to children if the proportion of those under 16 watching a programme is 20% higher than the general viewing population. This means shows like The Simpsons and SpongeBob SquarePants are covered, while shows like Beat the Star, Animals Do The Funniest Things and Emmerdale are not, even though they are watched by thousands more children. A two-week analysis by Which? found that ads for products including Coca-Cola, Oreos and Kellogg’s Coco Pops were broadcast during programmes popular with children but not covered by the restrictions. It said ITV’s Beat the Star attracted more than half a million child viewers during the monitoring period, but had contained ads for Coca-Cola, Dairylea Dunkers, Nachos and Sprite.
Which? food campaigner Clare Corbett said: “The ad restrictions may look good on paper but the reality is that the programmes most popular with children are slipping through the net. “If these rules are going to be effective, then they have to apply to the programmes that children watch in the greatest numbers.” She added: “We’re not anti-advertising, we’re just against the fact that most of the ads children see are for unhealthy products, rather than the healthier foods they should be eating more of.” But the Advertising Association said Which? seemed to want to unfairly restrict companies’ ability to deliver commercial messages. Chief Executive Baroness Peta Buscombe called its report “sensationalist, unconstructive and missing the point” and said the advertising industry took a “responsible approach” to food advertising. She added: “Their list includes programmes clearly not aimed at children and films screened after 10pm. “There clearly has to be an element of parental responsibility on which programmes they allow their children to view.”
At Diets Don’t Work we of course believe in a moderate and healthy approach to nutrition, whether it be the nutrition of children or adults. It’s perhaps more important that the parents who have more control over what their children want to eat than TV, know the value of instilling a healthy approach to food from an early age. Banning certain ads from children’s TV is not really going to work when their parents are taking them to McDonalds on a regular basis! The government and Ofcom might want to think about “nudging” rather than telling people what to do-this means that social norms are manipulated and people are led to believe that by eating junk food they are in a shunned minority. Look how sucessful drink driving campaigns have been in creating a new social standard so that driving under the influence is now looked down on by most people’s peers and social groups. Show us the positive too – i.e use marketing that can emphasise the positive gains to be had by eating healthily and encouraging children to do so too! If you need help, remember that we provide personal trainers who are qualified in nutrition and that all block bookings include nutritional help and assessment.