UK Government Mothballs Bill to Ban Food Ads to Kids

18 December 2003

British parliamentarian Debra Shipley (Labour, Stourbridge), sponsor of a much delayed bill to ban food advertising to children, on Tuesday threw down a gauntlet to culture, media and sport secretary Tessa Jowell.

"The secretary of state needs to decide whether she agrees with the public and health professionals that a ban is needed, or whether she is siding with the food and drink industry," said a disgruntled Shipley. "Continual delay suggests that the issue is being kicked into the long grass."

The MP is angered at the latest impeding of her bill, first aired in the House of Commons in May and laid promptly to rest due to "lack of Parliamentary time" -- a euphemism for government obstruction.

The bill was resurrected in November [WAMN: 04-Nov-03], only to be pigeonholed again by Jowell who delayed a likely vote in the House by referring the issue to Ofcom, the government's nascent media watchdog.

The referral is ostensibly to allow the regulator to review and tighten existing advertising codes governing the marketing to children of so-called "junk food", a process that could take several months.

Shipley is sceptical of Jowell's justification for further delay, during which she complains, children continue to be "cynically targeted by the advertising industry and the producers of food and drink which is high in fat, sugar and salt."

Although Shipley's bill has the support of educational and medical groups such as the National Union of Teachers, the National Heart Forum and Diabetes UK, the UK advertising industry has decried her call for an ad ban, arguing that it is impossible to "cocoon" children from promotional activity.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff