Ofcom orders junk food ad ban

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Ofcom has ordered a total ban on all junk food advertising around children’s programmes, but campaigners have slammed the regulator for not going far enough.

The proposals are a response to rising obesity rates among young people and will see the advertising of all food and drink products that are high in fat, salt and sugar banned in and around all children’s programmes and on children’s channels, as well as in "youth-oriented" and adult programmes that attract a significantly higher than average proportion of viewers under the age of 16. The plans will come into effect by the end of January 2007.

But Richard Watts, co-ordinator for health lobby group Sustain, says: "Ofcom’s announcement is deeply disappointing. It has caved in to the powerful food and advertising lobby."

The group, along with industry group Food Standards Agency, wanted a 9pm watershed for all junk food ads but Ofcom dismissed the idea as "disproportionate".

But the broadcast regulator has announced plans to shift the focus on its proposals from over-nine-year-olds to all under-16-year-olds. It has announced a "short and focused" consultation to seek views on extending the restrictions. It will end before Christmas.

Sustain accused Ofcom of being biased towards the food and advertising industry last month (MW October 12).

Fast food chain Burger King pre-empted Ofcom’s announcement earlier this week by saying it would voluntarily stop advertising to children (MW November 16).

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