UK Cabinet Riven Over Ban on Junk Food Ads to Kids

06 February 2004

British advertising's current hot potato -- whether a ban should be imposed on junk food ads targeting children -- has reportedly split Tony Blair's usually joined-at-the-hip cabinet.

Word from the inner sanctum is that culture, media and sport secretary Tessa Jowell is unusually hawkish on the subject, advocating a ban. But former leftist firebrand John Reid, now health minister after his Damascene conversion to the Third Way, is resolutely opposed to interdiction, arguing it will trigger charges of creating a "nanny state".

He instead urges a delaying tactic in the shape of a consultation exercise to examine the "state of the nation's health". Such a review would consider "how far it is the business of government to regulate the advertising of food and drink"; it would also consider what contribution advertisers, the food industry and retailers could make.

Argues Reid: "We need a big debate about the relative roles of government, individuals and industries in tackling this challenge. We need to find the right balance, rejecting the nanny state and the Pontius Pilate state which washes its hands of its citizens' health."

Meantime, newly created media regulator Ofcom is mulling the imposition of a much tougher advertising code related to food ads in general. But while the burgers burn, Britain's Food Standards Agency emulates Nero by dithering as to whether it should urge a total ban on food promotion to children.

Data sourced from: BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff