Britain’s Food Commission, a voluntary group that campaigns for improved food safety and standards, issued a clarion call on Monday demanding stricter controls on the advertising of foods and beverages to children.

The call accompanied its latest report, Broadcasting Bad Health: Why Food Marketing Needs to be Controlled. It lambastes a number of multinational giants, among them Coca-Cola, Burger King, KFC, Mars, McDonald's, Nestlé and PepsiCo, accusing them of inducing children to consume “high calorie, low nutrition food” through the use of gimmicky packaging, cartoon characters and free toys.

The report charges that for every $1 spent globally by the World Health Organisation on combating obesity, high blood pressure and other diseases caused by fatty western diets, the junk food industry spends $500 to promote them.

Says the report’s co-author Kath Dalmeny: “Junk foods and sugary drinks are supported by enormous advertising budgets that dwarf any attempt to educate children about healthy diets.”

Food advertising currently accounts for some 50% of all advertising in children’s TV programmes, says the Commission. Of that percentage, around 75% is for fast or convenience food. The body also notes a rising tide of diet-related diseases in developing countries such as India and China.

Ripostes a statement issued Tuesday by the UK Advertising Association’s Food Advertising Unit:

• Food advertising to children is stringently regulated … and is governed by a mixture of statutory and self-regulatory codes. These codes are regularly reviewed and subject to public consultation.

• These codes are not voluntary. Food advertisers closely adhere to them. Breaches of the codes are subject to a range of sanctions.

• FAU members are involved in a series of initiatives promoting healthy lifestyle messages through, for example, the use of sponsorship, on-pack information and interactive websites and support media literacy initiatives such as Media Smart. The FAU itself supports and encourages such initiatives.

The timing of the report, hard on the heels of Kraft Foods’ announcement that it plans a switch to healthier product formulation [WAMN: 01-Jul-03], increases the pressure on other food manufacturers to follow suit.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff