Junk food marketing

Junk food tug of war

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.

Over 30,000 people agree with us and have joined our fight by adding their name to our petition. We took their call to the heart of government in March 2015, presenting the petition to Downing Street.  

To find out more about why we’re campaigning for an end to junk food marketing aimed at children, you can read our full briefing here.

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 20:00 - 21:00, 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% 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 21:00 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.”