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10/11/03 . By Robert Uhlig, Food Correspondent . Telegraph . UK
Ban adverts for bad food, says health watchdog
School tuck shops will be given healthy eating guidance, television companies will be banned from advertising unhealthy foods and supermarkets will be prevented from selling sweets at checkouts under legislation being considered by the Government's food watchdog.
The Food Standards Agency and the Department of Health are so worried about the scale and threat of childhood obesity that they are preparing to advise ministers on unprecedented controls on promoting foods with high fat, sugar or salt content to children.
"Doing nothing is not an option," said Sir John Krebs, the agency's chairman, yesterday. Childhood obesity was "a health time bomb that could explode".
By 2010 "it could cost £3.6 billion a year and be a significant factor in the ill health of thousands of people and their families", he said.
The agency recently published research showing that advertising to children had a detrimental effect on their consumption of fatty, sugary and salty foods. It is preparing to brief ministers in the new year on measures to reduce the clinical obesity affecting one in 12 six-year-olds and one in six aged 15.
Some of its proposals could result in legal penalties for food manufacturers who knowingly promote unhealthy foods to children without making clear the harmful long-term effects. A consultation paper being discussed at the agency suggests that the food industry should be made aware of "its role in children's eating habits in the context of corporate social responsibility".
One proposal is for warnings on the front of packaging similar to those for cigarettes. Other ideas include enlisting celebrities to extoll the virtues of healthy food, a levy on TV food advertising to be used to promote healthier diets, banning TV advertising for children, and outlawing cartoon characters in promotions.