Majority of Britons Want Controls on Junk Food Ads to Kids

28 January 2004

A survey commissioned by government foods watchdog, the Food Standards Agency, indicates that 85% of Britons want greater controls on the way fast foods are promoted to children.

Likewise, 82% believe that celebrity endorsements -- such as former soccer star Gary Lineker's decade-long TV touting of PepsiCo's Walkers Crisps -- have considerable influence on children's choice of foods.

Nearly nine out of ten respondents, while opining that parents should take responsibility for their children's diets, also believe that parents' efforts to control what their children eat are hampered by marketing.

But FSA chairman Sir John Krebs diplomatically failed to mention the A-word: "The rising level of obesity in children is worrying to us all, not least to the parents of those children," he said. "Doing nothing is not an option but reversing the trend is a huge task and one in which we all have a role to play.

Continued Krebs: "The British public recognise the role that parents must play in improving the diets and health of their children. But it is also clear from our poll that they can't do it on their own -- they need support from schools, industry, broadcasters and government if they are to make a difference."

But despite intensive public pressure to ban junk food ads targeting children, the government is reluctant to do so in the face of a counterblast from the food and advertising industry.

Culture, media and sport secretary, Tessa Jowell, has stated she would instead prefer to work with the food industry to promote healthier eating. However, in an archetypal political evasion, she has yet to spell out exactly what that means.

The study. by market researcher RSGB Omnibus, was conducted earlier this month among 2,000 adults across the UK. The Food Standards Agency is an independent food safety watchdog set up by an Act of Parliament in 2000 to protect the public's health and consumer interests in relation to food.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff