Children who watch TV after 8pm ‘saturated with junk food advertising’

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Youngsters who sit up with their parents and watch prime-time TV are being “saturated” with junk food ads, a charity has warned.

People who watch television between 8pm and 9pm can see as many as 11 junk food adverts and hour, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) said. The charity said that analysis of more than 750 adverts from prime time television found that 22 per cent were for food.

More than one in 10 (13 per cent) of the food ads were for fast food chains and 12 per cent were for chocolate and sweet companies, according to the research.And a quarter of food adverts were for “unhealthy food products from supermarkets”, BHF said.

The authors of the research said that the food adverts “seem” to be designed for a young audience with more than half of ads using children, or “child-aged characters”, to promote the food.

The charity is leading a group of organisations, collectively called Action on Junk Food Marketing, which commissioned the research. The alliance has called for the Government and Ofcom to take action.

They have also launched a petition calling for ministers to ban junk food marketing for children.

“Parents don’t expect their children to be bombarded with ads for unhealthy food during prime-time TV, but that’s exactly what happens,” said BHF chief executive Simon Gillespie.

“We want the Government to protect children by switching off junk food adverts on TV until after 9pm and putting rules in place to stop children becoming fair game for internet marketing.”

A Government spokesman said: “The Government continues to keep this area under review and recognises that there are calls for increased restrictions on junk food advertising. It is widely accepted that advertising is just one aspect in determining children’s choice of food, and the current rules are therefore just one part of the package aimed at tackling childhood obesity and poor diet.”