Our new report highlights that countries around the world, including the UK, are failing to protect children from the effects that junk food marketing has on their health1. This undermines a child’s right to health and adequate nutrition, as it is the government's role to protect the best interests of all children.

Marketing can affect what children want, buy and eat, which in turn can affect their health and contributes to the increasing levels of childhood obesity. Previous research has shown that seeing 4.4 minutes of food advertising can lead to children eating 60 more calories a day2, and eating as little as 46 extra calories each day can lead to excess weight gain in children3.

Less marketing, less exposure

Global childhood obesity rates are on the rise and, in the UK alone, one in three children are overweight or obese when they leave primary school. Overweight or obese children are more likely to be overweight or obese adults, putting them at an increased risk of a number of health conditions including at least 12 different cancers. The report takes lessons learned from around the world, highlighting that restricting marketing of junk food to children reduces their exposure to these products and therefore reduces how much of them they eat. This can help reduce childhood obesity rates and it is why marketing restrictions are internationally recognised as urgently needed.

Caroline Cerny, Obesity Health Alliance lead, said: “The food industry use a range of marketing techniques to keep the spotlight on their products and evidence shows that children are particularly vulnerable. TV shows and websites popular with children are flooded with adverts for high fat and sugary products and the government needs to do more to ensure that children are adequately protected. There is overwhelming public support for a 9pm watershed on junk food adverts across all types of media. If we ignore the evidence and calls for stronger marketing restrictions to uphold child rights and improve child health, the UK will not make progress on reversing its childhood obesity rates.”

Kate Oldridge-Turner, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at WCRF, said: “Our report highlights the vital role that governments play in ensuring that junk food is not actively promoted to children. We are calling for the new UK government to take a fresh approach at tackling childhood obesity rates by introducing tighter restrictions on junk food marketing aimed at children that prevent food companies finding loopholes in the current legislation; such as a 9pm watershed on junk food adverts across all media.”

Read the full report.

References

1World Cancer Research Fund International. Building momentum: lessons on implementing robust restrictions of food and non-alcoholic beverage marketing to children. 2020.

2Russell SJ, Croker H, Viner RJ. The effect of screen advertising on children’s dietary intake: A systematic review and meta-analysis. 2019. Obes Rev.

3Plachta-Danielzik S, Landsberg B, Bosy-Westphal A, Johannsen M, Lange D, Muller M. Energy gain and energy gap in normal weight children: longitudinal data of the KOPS. 2008. Obesity (Silver Spring) 16(4)