The poll, carried out by the UK's food watchdog, the Food Standards Agency (FSA), reveals that despite growing pressure on food makers to help address the worrying rise in obesity, the UK consumer is still much more likely to blame individual parents for food choices rather than industry.
When asked to list responsibility for improving children's diets in order of importance, 88 per cent of consumers selected parents first, 43 per cent thought that schools were second most responsible, while food manufacturers came third (30 per cent) and broadcasters fourth (26 per cent).
The answers, from a sample of 2000 adults, did however show awareness of the need for help and assistance from schools, food manufacturers and government in order for parents to take action. But they appear to take little account of recent reports from lobby groups claiming a direct link between the advertising of sweets, snacks and other fatty foods to children and the deterioration in their health.
The FSA is holding a public debate in London tonight, 'Defusing the diet timebomb', to address the way foods are currently promoted and advertised to children. It follows peer-reviewed research published by the agency in September 2003 which found that food promotion to children has an effect on their food choices and behaviour.
A paper produced in November proposed a number of policy options, including sponsorship, advertising, labelling, endorsements, in-store activity and loyalty schemes to promote healthier foods for children, prompting several food associations to respond.
There has been a dramatic increase in obesity among British children in recent years and it is thought that one in 10 six-year-olds is currently obese. The poll findings underline the major opportunity for food and drink manufacturers to make healthier products for children, likely to be welcomed with open arms by the vast majority of parents.The Board of the Food Standards Agency will consider Agency policy and recommendations to Government on the way foods are promoted and advertised to children at its open Board meeting on 11 March.
The debate is being broadcast live on Sky Digital Channel 687 and live on the FSA website. Views and opinions discussed at the event will contribute towards shaping the proposals on policy options that will be considered by the Agency's Board in March.