Public concern that TV advertising is huckstering unhealthy food and drink to children could lead the UK government to impose more stringent controls over child-targeted 'junk food' ads – even leading to a ban on all such advertising.

Said a minister who preferred not to be identified: "We do not want to impose a ban, but we will consider one if the industry doesn't put its house in order."

At risk are sweets (candy, chocolate) soft drinks, snacks, sugary breakfast cereals and fast-food chains. All are held culpable by the government's Food Standards Agency which recently established a link between advertising and detrimental diets [WAMN: 26-Sep-03].

Says the researcher who led the FSA's study, Professor Gerard Hastings of the University of Strathclyde's Centre for Social Marketing: " Advertising to children does have an effect on their preferences, purchase behaviour and consumption and these effects are apparent not just for different brands but for different types of food."

MP Debra Shipley (Labour, Stourbridge) picks up the baton: "This independent report is a damning indictment of the advertising industry's marketing strategies to children." She is demanding a ban on all food ads targeting children under the age of five.

But Britain's ad industry claims it has one of the strictest codes of food advertising practice in Europe.

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