UK Proposes Ban As Kids Get Fatter
The UK government is proposing an ambitious ban on selling energy drinks to kids and will target other calorie dense, nutrient poor food buying behavior. Their goal is to halve childhood obesity by 2030.
Research confirms that energy drinks are being consumed by 25% of six to nine-year-olds. The figures showed 9.6 per cent of reception-aged children in 2016-2017 were obese. And 70% of parents purchased at least one of these food items requested by a child during a shopping trip.
Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt has included the ban in a raft of new proposals to cut childhood obesity. His plans include a 9pm watershed on junk food adverts, mandatory calorie labeling on menus, banning the sale of sweets at checkouts and a ban on buy-one-get-one-free offers. Most importantly the ban includes selling caffeine and sugar-laden drinks, such as Red Bull, to under-16s.
Why the need for a comprehensive ban?
The UK is not alone. Almost 13 million children and adolescents, from 200 countries around the world, show a tenfold increase in rates of obesity over the last four decades. Clearly the world is getting fatter.
The Independent reports, “On one side of the equation, our food supply is dominated by energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods that are available 24 hours a day. In the US alone, companies spend $1.79bn (£1.37bn) annually to market unhealthy food to children, compared with only $280m on healthy foods. In Canada, over 90 per cent of food and beverage product ads viewed by children and youth online are for unhealthy food products. On the other side of the energy-balance equation, our towns and cities have been designed to support motorized transportation, instead of human-powered movement through walking or cycling. This creates a dependency on cars that further impacts individual physical activity.”
Not everyone is happy with the ban, but Jamie Oliver is…
Outspoken celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, is one of many parties who have campaigned for this ban. He told The Mirror: “These drinks are not fit for kids and are affecting not only them negatively, but also classrooms around the country. This is a great move for better child health but also a great move to support our teachers to help kids learn.”
Not everyone shares his views. The Food and Drink Federation’s corporate affairs director Tim Rycroft describes a “deep-seated anxiety” around the proposed regulations. He told Marketing Week: “There are three things that I feel right now. Firstly, surprise and frustration that after the introduction of what was deemed successful measures we are now facing more regulation. Secondly, I’m pleased about encouraging activity in schools; and finally, a deep-seated sense of anxiety around promotional restrictions and advertising restrictions.”
Government also warned there will be a review of online advertising regulation to see whether self-regulation is appropriate. Currently the Committee of Advertising Practice, which works alongside the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), creates the rules.
The UK currently has some of the toughest rules around the advertising of food high in fat, salt and sugar in the world, with food and drink companies unable to target under-16s online.
Children are vulnerable
The Obesity Health Alliance, welcomes government’s new plan and want firmer, quicker action to be taken.
The Alliance has argued that children are a vulnerable audience and therefore government has to take strong steps to protect and inform parents and families about the long-term risks of obesity.
“With around 30% of children in the UK obese or overweight, we need to help more children and families lose weight and maintain a healthy weight.”
Research shows that advertising of unhealthy food and drink can influence children’s purchases, consumption and food preferences. They believe that advertising practice on the TV, internet and in retail environments is skewed towards unhealthy products and is inconsistently regulated.
“We look forward to supporting the Government in the short-term on the drafting and promotion of an ambitious childhood obesity strategy, and in the longer term to tackle overweight and obesity across the life course.”
The government will support the ban by proposing other initiatives such as the Daily Mile. This programme encourages children to run or jog a mile every day.