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food politics

Kids May No Longer Be the Prime Targets for Junk Food and Candy Ads

The UK seems to finally be getting serious about cracking down on sweets and junk food. The Local Government Association said that it would like to see a ban on the advertising of junk food near schools.

Alex Swerdloff

Photo via Flickr user Michael_Lehet

The UK seems to finally be getting serious about cracking down on sweets and junk food. No wonder: 67 percent of men and 57 percent of women in the UK are considered to be overweight or obese, according to a University of Washington study. It is the third-fattest nation in Western Europe, behind only Iceland and Malta.

This week, in a surprise move, George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced that the UK would start taxing sugary drinks. The tax will be introduced in two years and is expected to raise an estimated £520 million ($730 million) in its first year.

But the latest news is that the Local Government Association, which represents 370 local city councils across the UK, has proposed a ban on the advertising of junk food near schools.

According to a study by the University of Stirling, three quarters of the food advertising young people see is for junk food. And those ads are powerful, the study found: half of the young people surveyed said that the advertising had influenced their food purchases. "It is not right, when we are trying to educate children around the importance of maintaining a healthy diet, that at the same time they are subjected to a bombardment of junk-food advertising," said Richard Kemp of the Local Government Association.

The proposal leaves the decision to cut advertising to local authorities throughout the UK.

Limiting junk food advertising to children is starting to take off even in the US, where there are no legally imposed limits. This week, the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB), along with the National Confectioners Association, said that the makers of Brach's, Lemonhead, Ghirardelli, Jelly Belly, Peeps, Mike and Ike, and Welch's Fruit Snacks have all agreed that they would not to advertise primarily to children under the age of 12 or to advertise their candy in grade schools.

Mary E. Power, the president and CEO of the CBBB, said, "This latest initiative is yet another example of how responsible companies can join together to efficiently regulate themselves."

We still have quite a way to go, but it looks like both the UK and US are beginning to make some headway into tackling the growing global obesity epidemic.