Research by University of Liverpool psychologists, that recommends adverts for unhealthy foods are pushed back until after the nine pm watershed has been included in the Labour Party’s health policy proposals.
The recommendations are the result of research by Dr Emma Boyland and Rosa Whalen, from the Institute of Psychology, Health and Society which found that young people are bombarded by a large number of adverts promoting unhealthy foods during primetime TV. These are adverts which are banned from dedicated children’s programming.
Their research exposed a loophole in regulations governing the marketing of junk food, as the rules do not cover the TV programmes that are most popular with adults and children.
Luciana Berger M.P, shadow public health minister, described the current system as not “fit for purpose”.
Psychologist, Professor Jason Halford, Head of the University’s Department of Psychological Sciences said:
“The links between TV advertising and unhealthy diets are well-known and introducing regulations that stop the advertising of unhealthy products during the popular television programmes that children actually watch will play an important part in the battle to tackle obesity.
It is essential, if regulation is to be effective, that it must be evidence-based and proportionate to the risk posed to children’s health. This new initiative demonstrates politicians are catching up with the evidence base and we hope this refocuses the policy debate from rhetoric to science. This can only have a beneficial impact on children’s well-being.”
Professor Amandine Garde, from the University’s School of Law and Social Justice, commented:
“Independent research has established that the Ofcom rules contain several loopholes. It is therefore excellent news that the Labour Party are looking to limit some of the opportunities for food industry operators to shift their investment from regulated children’s programmes to unregulated family programmes which are seen by a large number of children. The next step will be to regulate other media and marketing techniques used to influence children’s dietary behaviours.”
Professor Simon Capewell, from the University’s Department of Public Health & Policy, added:
“The public health community welcomes these sensible proposals. Industry spends over one billion pounds annually marketing junk food and sugary drinks to children (and, of course to adults). This worsens the ongoing epidemics of obesity, diabetes, common cancers and cardiovascular disease. The logical endpoint will be a complete marketing ban, as eventually achieved for tobacco.