A British member of parliament is to introduce legislation seeking to ban the advertising of fast food to pre-school children.

Debra Shipley, an MP for the governing Labour Party, will launch her bill on November 4. She is seeking support for the prohibition of "advertising of high fat, high sugar and high salt content food and drink during pre-school children's television."

Shipley has been campaigning against the marketing of unhealthy snacks to children for some time, having introduced a similar bill earlier this year [WAMN: 15-Apr-03]. Like her previous measure, the new legislation will be a ten-minute rule bill – so called after the length of time a proponent can speak in its favour – and without government support stands no chance of becoming law.

Despite its slim chance of success, the motion – which has the backing of the Consumer Council, the National Heart Forum and the National Union of Teachers – will increase the pressure on the government to act against food marketers. The House of Commons Health Select Committee, currently hearing evidence from the big food and drink firms, is investigating an ad ban as one method of tackling child obesity.

"Irresponsible food and drink manufacturers ruthlessly target children through television advertising and clever marketing strategies," blasted Shipley.

"No mention is made of the fact that high fat, high sugar and high salt food and drink can cause obesity and diabetes. My bill will prevent these kinds of foods from being foisted on to pre-school children who have no understanding of the nature of advertising."

However, Jeremy Preston, director of the Advertising Association's Food Advertising Unit, dismissed Shipley's legislation as "simplistic", arguing that there is no evidence to suggest a ban on advertising would curb obesity among the young.

"If you look at Quebec, which has banned television advertising aimed at pre-school children for years, levels of obesity there are no lower than anywhere else," he contended.

Data sourced from: MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff