FSA calls for greater responsibility in food advertising to children

March 11, 2004, just-food.com: The Board of the Food Standards Agency will adopt new, stricter rules for companies targeting children. The FSA hopes that the new measures on advertising and labeling of food products geared towards children will help stem the tide of obesity among children.

The plan commits the FSA to several initiatives, including developing advice and guidelines for the food industry on reducing amounts of fat, salt and sugar in products specifically aimed at children, and agreeing guidelines on the labeling of these products to enable consumers to identify more easily and accurately what are healthier options.

The FSA said it plans to monitor food industry uptake of its advice and guidelines, and publish the results for consumers to see what progress is being made. It also plans to work with schools to push healthier foods higher up the menu and target vending machines in schools to increase the range of healthier options.

Sports stars have recently come into criticism for featuring in advertisements for crisps and other high-fat or high-calorie foods promoted to children. The FSA said it would call on celebrities to promote healthier food choices. It also plans to work with broadcasters to encourage them to increase the association between high profile characters and cartoons on TV and healthier foods.

Finally, the FSA said it would advise the broadcast regulator Ofcom, and the advertising industry, that action to address the imbalance in TV advertising of food to children is justified.

“Children are bombarded with messages that promote food high in fat, salt and sugar. The evidence shows that these messages do influence children. Eating too much of these foods is storing up health problems for their future. The Food Standards Agency wants healthier choices to be promoted to children,” said Sir John Krebs, chair of the FSA.

“Everyone has a responsibility to act and our action plan is a challenge to all with a part to play: not just parents and children, but Government, schools, the food and advertising industries and the celebrities and sporting heroes children look up to. Just because this is a complex issue doesn't mean we can't do anything about it,” he added.