Saturday, November 29, 2008

Junk Food Ads Banned in UK

Children’s Programs Will No Longer Include Ads for Junk Food by Jan Zeiger

The UK's telecommunications regulator, Ofcom, recently passed new regulations that will end all junk food advertising to television viewers under the age of 16.

It’s no secret that young viewers are inundated with ads, many of which glamorize food and beverages which could be considered “junk” due to their high fat, sugar, or salt content. A recent study on food-related advertising found 130 food-related ads in about 100 hours of preschool programming. More than half of these ads were geared towards children, with most of them promoting sugary cereals and fast food. Also noted in the report was the fact that the advertisements appeared to be focused on gaining brand recognition rather than immediate sales. It seems that a main goal of ads that target children is to present the product as exciting or fun, resulting in a positive association with the recommended food or beverage.

This study was done on three television networks: PBS, Disney, and Nickelodeon. PBS and Disney consider their preschool blocks of television to be “Ad-Free” but frequently show logos and feature slogans and music of their sponsors which include McDonald’s and Chuck E. Cheese.

The UK is the first industrialized nation to ban television ads that encourage young children to consume junk food. While the ban won’t occur overnight, it will eventually include all programming geared towards children under the age of 16. The Center for Science in the Public Interest is in favor of such regulations and hopes that the US will follow suit. The United States currently has an organization that reviews ads targeted to children, but the Children’s Advertising Review Unit does not consider a product's nutritional value.

The CSPI teamed up with the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood in 2006 and threatened to sue Kellogg and Viacom (owner of Nickelodeon) over their marketing practices. This is in response to the Federal Trade Commission’s promise that it simply won’t place restrictions on ads aired during children’s programs. It is important to note that a new voluntary program, The Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, is designed to help promote healthier lifestyles among children. Voluntary participants of the initiative include Coca Cola, Campbell’s Soup, and Kraft Foods.

Dr. Susan M. Connor, PhD. “Food-Related Advertising on Preschool Television: Building Brand Recognition in Young Viewers” Pediatrics. October 2006.
Center for Science in the Public Interest--2/23/07 press release
The copyright of the article Junk Food Ads Banned in UK in Children’s TV is owned by Jan Zeiger.

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