The British Heart Foundation (BHF) is calling for the UK Government to introduce a ban on junk food adverts being shown before the 9pm watershed to protect children from making unhealthy choices.
According to a new survey carried out by the charity 70 per cent of parents with children aged 4 to 16 have been pestered by them to buy junk food advertised on TV.
The BHF polled over 2000 UK parents with children aged 16 and under, and found more around 43 per cent of parents with children aged 4 to 16 say they are badgered by their children at least once a week.
Mike Hobday, director of policy at the British Heart Foundation, said that regulations for TV and online advertising in the UK are "weak".
"Loopholes in the system mean that every day millions of children are exposed to sophisticated marketing techniques specifically designed to lure them into unhealthy eating habits," he said. “This evidence shows that junk food ads are having a detrimental impact on children’s behaviour and are hindering parents’ efforts to get their children to eat healthily.
“We cannot allow companies to continue exploiting holes in the system at the expense of our children’s health. The Government must act now to help give children a stronger chance at fending off future heart disease.”
However, Ian Twinn, ISBA’s director of public affairs argued that while the BHF campaign addresses a serious issue, the debate over "breaks down" for a number of reasons.
"First, campaigners seem convinced that foods can be called ‘junk’, very few foods are," he commented. "Secondly, the prescribed solutions, usually ad bans or exiling ads to late night, are placebos, which if taken seriously will not make people thin but have nasty side effects.”
“The UK has one of the tightest ad regulation systems in the world. We achieve very high compliance rates. Our independent regulator, the ASA, is an effective and objective means for anyone to complain about advertising. The CAP and broadcast rules which the ASA enforces are clear, open and kept up to date as evidence emerges".
The BHF junk food petition can be found on the charity's website.