UK Government Seeks Voluntary Compromise on Junk Food Ads

26 May 2004

Conscious that the spectre of a general election hovers just below the horizon, the beleaguered Blair administration is in no mood to antagonise Britain's food manufacturing multinationals by enforcing a ban on the advertising of junk foods to kids.

In softlee, softlee catchee monkee mode, government ministers are reportedly touting the idea of a voluntary ban on advertising salt-rich, high-fat foods to children.

This kid glove approach, they hope, will defuse the ticking bomb of consumer anger over the issue of childhood obesity, at the same time propitiating food manufacturers and the advertising industry. And, as ever in politics, the preferred form of inaction is to set-up a committee.

Health secretary John Reid aims to do just that with the formation of a Cabinet committee to consider the report of a bipartisan parliamentary select committee, which over the past year has studied the problems and causes of childhood obesity.

Insiders say the report will criticize ministers for their collective inaction on the obesity issue.

While Reid feels there is a strong argument for curtailing junk food ads during the hours when children's television programmes are screened, culture, media and sport secretary Tessa Jowell believes this would have little effect on children's present eating habits.

Ministers are crossing their fingers in the hope that manufacturers will cooperate with a voluntary ban. Meantime, another reason for stalling is the upcoming reports on the health and obesity issue due this summer -- one from the Foods Standards Commission, the other from media watchdog Ofcom.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff