The Advertising Association has hit back at Cancer Research UK claims that youngsters who watch over three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to chow down extra junk food snacks, insisting the ad industry is as committed as ever to combating childhood obesity.
With junk food replacing junk mail as the chattering classes’ public enemy number one – if not the general public’s – Cancer Research briefed YouGov to quiz over 3,000 youngsters on their TV viewing habits and diet.
It found that those who are “bombarded” by TV ads for high-calorie foods and drinks are liable to scoff more than 500 extra snacks in a year, compared with those watching less TV.
The report added that teenagers streaming TV shows with ads were more than twice as likely (139%) to consume fizzy drinks than someone with a “low advert exposure”, and 65% more likely to eat ready meals.
Dr Jyotsna Vohra, the lead author on the study said: “It’s been 10 years since the first, and only, TV junk food marketing regulations were introduced by Ofcom and they’re seriously out of date.
However, Advertising Association chief executive Stephen Woodford has countered: “The UK has some of the toughest advertising regulations in the world, driven by the Committees of Advertising Practice and enforced where necessary by the Advertising Standards Authority.
“The report states that TV food marketing rules have not changed in ten years. While this may be true for TV, CAP carried out a comprehensive review of HFSS advertising to children in 2016 and the codes were reviewed, updated and strengthened last year.
“The changes mean that whether children are watching programmes on TV or streaming from the internet they are subject to the same protections, which was not the case previously. As young people’s media consumption habits have changed, so have the regulations governing these media.
“The Advertising Association, its members, and other partners in the industry such as the FDF, remain committed to meeting the challenge of childhood obesity, which is an important public health issue in the UK as it is elsewhere.”
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