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Childrens choice of food affected by advertising - report

6 October 2011

Direct advertising food to children can significantly affect their choices, according to research published today in the US Journal of Pediatrics.

The study showed that, after being shown an advertisement, 71 of children chose a coupon for French Fries while their parents remained neutral. The figure only dropped to 55 when parents intervened to ask children to choose the healthy option.

In 2006 the UK announced that all advertisements for foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) would be removed from all programmes which hold particular appeal for children up to the age of 16.

In 2010 Ofcom reviewed the impact of the changes and concluded that the restrictions introduced had significantly reduced the amount of HFSS advertising seen by children by more than one-third (37).

Nina Best, expert in advertising law at Browne Jacobson, hopes the findings will not lead to renewed calls for an outright ban on all HFSS food advertising in the UK:

"There is a strong case for tighter laws on advertising junk food on US television channels but the same cannot be said for the UK. We have some of the strictest laws in the world on advertising HFSS foods and further restrictions would be unnecessary. Overall the impact of advertising on food choice, compared to influences such as peer pressure, lifestyle, school policies and income levels is relatively small."

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Lakhbir Rakar

Lakhbir Rakar

PR Manager