Minister Accused of Swallowing Junk Food Ad Propaganda

15 January 2004

Britain's culture, media and sport secretary Tessa Jowell was accused Wednesday in Parliament of swallowing food industry hype. The gibe came after the minister opined that a ban on advertising junk food during children's TV programmes would have "no significant impact" in the fight against child obesity.

Campaigning MP Debra Shipley (Labour, Stourbridge), who has introduced her own bill calling for such a ban, told parliament it was "difficult to understand" how Jowell could say a ban would not have "any significant impact" on child obesity, when there was substantive evidence to suggest children are influenced by TV advertising.

Continued Shipley, whose own bill has twice 'run out of time' in the House of Commons: "A year ago she [Jowell] said 'wait for the Food Standards Authority report'. The FSA report said children are influenced by the ads they see on TV."

"My campaign to ban ads for high fat, sugar and salt foods has now been backed by over ninety organisations, many of which are medical bodies concerned about things like diabetes and heart disease. It's difficult to understand why [the minister] remains to be convinced."

"All the counter arguments are coming from the multibillion pound food industry, which is defending its vested interest. [It] has claimed consistently that children's health is nothing to do with it, saying that they should exercise more. Clearly that's true, but what children eat is important too," Shipley said.

Shipley's attack came in response to recent remarks by secretary Jowell at the Oxford Media Convention. "I would prefer not to paint the food industry into a corner as the bad guys," the minister told delegates. "I would prefer to work with the food industry to promote greater health awareness. We need to get out messages about healthier diet and healthier eating."

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff