Recent discussions between ad industry representatives and groups lobbying for restrictions on food advertising to children led to calls for a joint approach to the problem.

Chairing the sixth annual conference of the Food Advertising Unit this month, BMP DDB chairman Chris Powell declared: “We need agreement on the facts and I hope that a programme of research can now be agreed. Clearly there is a problem with children’s diets but any approach must be evidence-based if it is going to work.”

Consumer groups Sustain and the Food Commission demanded restrictions on ads at the conference, while representatives from Mars and Kellogg responded on behalf of the food industry.

Some speakers questioned advertising’s influence on children’s diets. “Children’s preferences and understandings come from a number of sources but particularly peers, schools and parents,” said Professor Adrian Furnham. “There is no literature to support the case that television advertising, or indeed any form of advertising, is a direct route to children's preferences and eventual parental conflict.”

Despite inevitable argument, a consensus arose that children should be protected, but that food ads were only one influence on a child’s diet, with a call for “continued constructive dialogue” between the various parties. Grant Meekings of the Food Standards Agency, which some in the ad industry think will propose restrictions, vowed the body would make policy decisions based on the evidence.

News source: CampaignLive (UK)