Monday, September 22, 2008

UK: Junk food ad rules “not working”

How frustrating for the Fascists!

Adverts for unhealthy foods are still appearing during TV programmes seen by children, despite curbs introduced in January, a consumer watchdog has said. Which? said the five programmes with the most child viewers and only four of the top 20 most popular children's shows were covered by Ofcom's rules. These state that ads for "less healthy” foods are not allowed in or around programmes which "appeal" to under-16s.

But advertisers said Which's list included shows "not aimed" at children. A programme is defined as being of particular appeal to children if the proportion of those under 16 watching a programme is 20% higher than the general viewing population. This means shows like The Simpsons and SpongeBob SquarePants are covered, while shows like Beat the Star, Animals Do The Funniest Things and Emmerdale are not, even though they are watched by thousands more children.

A two-week analysis by Which? found that ads for products including Coca-Cola, Oreos and Kellogg's Coco Pops were broadcast during programmes popular with children but not covered by the restrictions. It said ITV's Beat the Star attracted more than half a million child viewers during the monitoring period, but had contained ads for Coca-Cola, Dairylea Dunkers, Nachos and Sprite.

Which? food campaigner Clare Corbett said: "The ad restrictions may look good on paper but the reality is that the programmes most popular with children are slipping through the net. "If these rules are going to be effective, then they have to apply to the programmes that children watch in the greatest numbers." She added: "We're not anti-advertising, we're just against the fact that most of the ads children see are for unhealthy products, rather than the healthier foods they should be eating more of."

But the Advertising Association said Which? seemed to want to unfairly restrict companies' ability to deliver commercial messages. Chief executive Baroness Peta Buscombe called its report "sensationalist, unconstructive and missing the point" and said the advertising industry took a "responsible approach" to food advertising. She added: "Their list includes programmes clearly not aimed at children and films screened after 10pm. "There clearly has to be an element of parental responsibility on which programmes they allow their children to view."

A Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesman said: "For the first time, TV adverts for foods high in fat, salt and sugar are banned during programmes aimed at or of particular appeal to children under 16. "Although children still see some of these advertisements, the current Ofcom regulations mean that the viewing of these adverts by children is reduced by an estimated 50%, an impressive amount." He added: "We appreciate that there are calls for further restrictions on UK TV advertising but these should be considered once we have had a chance to assess the impact of current measures."

Ofcom is set to report to government on the success of its restrictions in December. The Food Standards Agency, which drew up a model for deciding if a food was unhealthy, is also to assess how well it is performing.


"Sports" drinks are a con

VITAMIN and sports-water drinks are so laden with sugar and caffeine that claims about their health-giving benefits should be taken with a grain of salt, nutritionists have warned. Despite labels touting their ability to revive consumers and improve focus and energy, the drinks are simply "artificial concoctions" of additives more likely to undermine drinkers' health than improve it, Foodwatch nutritionist Catherine Saxelby said. The sugar content of the drinks - which account for $100million of bottled water sales - is so high the Australian Dental Association wants them to carry warning labels.

Consumer advocate group Choice says the public is being deliberately misled about the benefits of enhanced-water drinks, with some 500ml varieties containing eight teaspoons of sugar, high levels of caffeine and many additives, including flavours and colours.

Choice has complained to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the NSW Food Authority about the allegedly misleading labelling and marketing of Coca-Cola Amatil's Glaceau Vitamin Water. The drink has 6« teaspoons of sugar - that's one third of the average adult woman's recommended dietary intake of sugar. The beverage giant expects to sell 2 million bottles of the drink this year. Choice senior food policy officer Clare Hughes said many health-conscious Australians were buying Glaceau and the other leading enhanced-water brands, Nutrient Water and Smart Water, on the basis of deceptive marketing and labelling. While it purported to be healthy, a 575ml bottle of Nutrient Water had seven teaspoons of sugar, Ms Hughes said; Smart Water's 500ml bottle had eight. A 375ml can of Coca-Cola contains 10 teaspoons of sugar.

"What's marketed as a sensible alternative to sugary soft drinks is nowhere near as sensible or as healthy as the package implies," Ms Hughes said. Ms Saxelby said vitamin waters are an "artificial concoction" with additives such as fructose, sucrose, flavour and food acid. "It's not like drinking juice. It's actually a formulated product from a factory," she said. "I don't think we need these drinks. We can get our vitamins and minerals from normal, natural food."

Australian Dental Association Victoria deputy president Anne Harrison said the high sugar levels could lead to tooth decay and consumers had a right to know what they were drinking.

Coca-Cola South Pacific spokeswoman Sarah Kelly said neither the ACCC nor the NSW Food Authority had contacted the company to raise concerns about Glaceau Vitamin Water, which was launched in February and had "exceeded sales expectations".


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