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Top brands targeted on junk food's list of shame
by Sean Poulter, Daily Mail

July 29, 2005

McDonald's, Kellogg's, Coca-Cola and Walkers are being targeted for a clampdown on junk-food advertising.

Government food watchdogs have detailed a list of the types of products which should have controls on their advertising because they are deemed unhealthy.

The list is effectively the first official definition of what the Government's own experts consider junk foods.

The curbs could range from a ban on advertisements during children's broadcasting, on-screen health warnings when the ads are screened or a quota limiting the number of times they can be shown.

The proposals immediately triggered a row with the food industry, which said it was wrong to 'demonise' certain products. The Food Standards Agency yesterday published details of a scoring system for food and drink which will be used to decide where advertising should be curtailed or not.

Foods high in fat, salt and sugar - such as hamburgers, chicken nuggets, cornflakes, crisps and cola drinks - are on the list of products which face controls.

The Government is committed to introducing restrictions of unhealthy foods in its Public Health White Paper which lists a number of initiatives to tackle spiralling childhood obesity.

Successive health and education secretaries have repeated the commitment and given the job of implementing change to the FSA and the broadcasting and advertising watchdog, Ofcom.

The FSA has now produced its model set of guidelines to be used for categorising foods.

A spokesman said: "The model has been developed by the agency to help support the independent UK communications regulator Ofcom in its work to consider possible restrictions to the advertising and promotion to children of foods that are high in fat, saturated fat, salt or sugar.

"The model utilises a simple scoring system that rates the overall balance of nutrients in the food.

"This means the model identifies foods that are high in fat, salt or sugar, but recognises the importance of fruit and vegetables, cereal, meat and dairy-based products in the diet."

Total ban on advertising

The British Medical Association, backbench Labour MPs and a host of consumer and health groups are supporting a total ban on junk food advertising.

The BMA also wants a ban on vending machines selling chocolate, crisps and fizzy drinks in schools and an end to celebrity endorsements of unhealthy food.

One million children under 16 are now classed as obese, putting them at risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Liam Donaldson has already warned that a generation could die before their parents because of health problems linked to lifestyle.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of science and ethics at the BMA, said: "Children are being bombarded with mixed messages.

"On the one hand they might learn about healthy eating in school and then they go home and spend hours watching TV and see celebrities eating hamburgers, crisps or drinking fizzy drinks.

"Children and parents are surrounded by the marketing of unhealthy cereals, snacks and processed meals. This has to stop."

While there is huge pressure for controls, there are concerns that the broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, is likely to take a soft line. Yesterday, the Food and Drink Federation rejected the need for restrictions.

A spokesman said: "Any simplistic scheme that demonises products doesn't take into account the complexity of people's lifestyles and the way they eat.

"The important thing is to look at the whole diet rather than individual foods.

"We don't think there should be restrictions on the marketing of certain types of food. We need to look at educating consumers on a balanced diet.

The UK boss of McDonald's, Peter Beresford, has already made clear that he rejects restrictions on TV advertising.

He has previously refused to accept that McDonald's is in any way to blame for rising obesity, saying: "There is no good food or bad food, only bad diets."



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