Junk food marketing

A girl looking at a phone

Parents’ efforts to help their children eat healthily are being undermined by sophisticated promotions for unhealthy foods on TV and online – these adverts are exploiting loopholes in advertising regulations.

We want the UK Government to introduce stronger regulations to stop companies from advertising unhealthy foods directly to children.

Sign the petition

You can also read our full briefing on junk food marketing.

The problem

Junk food marketing to children has become more sophisticated than ever. Loopholes in the rules governing online and TV marketing mean that they're not up to the job of protecting our children.

  • Children’s TV viewing peaks between eight and nine pm, but laws created to protect children from junk food adverts don’t typically cover this period.   
  • Rules covering online marketing are vague and don't distinguish between healthy and unhealthy foods, making it easier to advertise unhealthy products online and harder for the public to fight back through complaints.
  • The current system for online marketing is self-regulatory, the food industry are involved in developing and enforcing the rules.
  • Marketing plays a role in influencing children's dietary choices. In the UK, around 30 per cent of children are overweight or obese, putting them at greater risk of developing serious health problems later in life, including coronary heart disease. 

What needs to happen?

  • A ban on junk food advertising before the 9pm watershed.
  • A distinction between healthy and unhealthy foods written into rules covering online marketing.
  • Tighter regulation for online marketing of junk foods. New rules should be written, monitored and enforced by an independent body.  

What do kids think?

Hannah, 10, is supporting the campaign.

“Eating healthily is important for children my age, so being persuaded by adverts to eat junk food is really bad for us. Junk food ads mean that children pester their parents for junk food, wasting their money as well as making them unhealthy.

Also, think about it, if we get into the bad habit of eating junk food now, when we grow up and have a family they’d eat it too – it affects future generations!”

Dillon, 12, doesn't think that junk food should be advertised to children.

“When I'm playing online or watching TV, I see lots of fun adverts for snacks and drinks. Sometimes it makes me really want to buy the stuff because they usually have cool music and competitions.  

It’s weird to think that big companies target kids on purpose. I don’t think my mum would like it if she knew, because she wants me to eat healthily and protect my heart.”

Fight back

Sign the petition to tell the UK Government to close down loopholes and create a system that protects children from junk food marketing.