Children watched an average of 16 hours of TV a week in 2009

Children watched an average of 16 hours of TV a week in 2009

Ofcom rules reducing the amount of junk food advertising that children see in the UK have been less effective than predicted, according to a children’s food campaigner.

Figures published by Ofcom today (26 July) reveal that while children are watching an average of 16 hours television a week, in 2009 they saw around 37% fewer adverts for HFSS (foods high in fat, salt and sugar) products than in 2005.

This figure rose to 52% fewer ads for children aged between four and nine, but fell to only 22% for children between 10 and 15.

Ofcom had initially estimated that the advertising restrictions, once fully implemented, would reduce the exposure of four to 15-year-olds to HFSS advertising by 41% of the 2005 level and by 51% for children under nine.

However, Children’s Food Campaign coordinator Christine Haigh said the rules have been less effective than predicted and that, while Ofcom predicted that the restrictions would reduce children’s overall exposure to HFSS advertising by 41%, the reduction falls short of this.

“The review shows what we’ve always said: that regulation of food advertising to children is needed to reduce children’s exposure to junk food marketing,” Haigh said. “However, it also shows that the current regulations don’t go far enough.”

Haigh added that a “tougher approach” is needed to protect children from the junk food market if the record levels of childhood obesity are to be addressed.

“The figures show that a 9pm watershed would be a more effective way of protecting children,” Haigh said. “Meanwhile we know that marketers are finding increasingly clever ways to target children through media such as the internet. If the Coalition Government is serious about protecting children from “excessive commercialisation”, then these loopholes need to be closed urgently.”

The restrictions were phased in from February 2007 and were fully implemented in January last year.