Call to action on the impact of junk food marketing on children’s obesity

Posted on: 11th January 2018

On Tuesday 16th January MPs will debate the impact of junk food marketing on children’s obesity. As members of the Obesity Health Alliance (OHA), the British Liver Trust are calling for existing regulations to be extended so that junk food marketing is restricted until after the 9pm watershed on TV. The OHA has written to all MPs asking them to speak at the debate in support of this policy.

The levels of overweight and obesity are at a devastating all-time high, with more than one in five children overweight or obese when they start primary school. This figure rises to one in three when they leave primary school. Children living in the most deprived areas are more than twice as likely to be affected by obesity as those living in the least deprived areas.

The marketing of food and drinks high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) has a major impact on childhood obesity rates. There is a clear link between food promotion and children’s food preferences, what they buy and what they eat. Advertising also influences how much children eat, and can lead to them ‘pestering’ parents to buy unhealthy products.

The Government already acknowledges that children need protecting from junk food marketing through restrictions on HFSS adverts during programmes watched only by children. However, these restrictions do not apply to adverts shown during “family viewing time” – programmes broadcast between 6pm and 9pm, such as The Voice and X-Factor. Significantly more children watch these shows than even the most popular children’s programmes. In fact, current restrictions only apply to 26% of children’s total viewing time, meaning there is a serious loophole in the regulations.

A recent OHA report – ‘A Watershed Moment: Why it’s Prime Time to Protect Children from Junk Food Adverts’ reveals that the majority (59%) of food and drink adverts shown during family viewing time would be banned from children’s TV, yet hundreds of thousands of children are exposed to these ads every week. In the worst case example, children were bombarded with nine junk food adverts in just a 30 minute period including pizzas, burgers and crisps.

We are calling for junk food adverts to be restricted until after the 9pm watershed. We have an opportunity to gather support from MPs for our call with the upcoming debate in Parliament. We are asking all supporters to join in our campaign by writing to their MP using a template letter, asking them to attend the debate and speak in support of restrictions on junk food marketing.

To actively support the campaign supporters can use one of two ways:

If you would like more information about the impact of junk food marketing or the work of the Obesity Health Alliance, please don’t hesitate to get in touch here: