UK action plan to increase publicity for health foods

Related tags Food standards agency Nutrition

New measures to improve children's diets in the UK will use
celebrity endorsements and TV to promote healthy foods to kids and
their parents, writes Dominique Patton.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) unveiled a range of new initiatives yesterday, in a bid to counter the impact of advertising of fast food and other 'unhealthy' products on British children. 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 FSA last year carried out a wide investigation into the impact of food advertising on children and found that they are highly susceptible to the messages carried by different media.

Sir John Krebs, chair of the Food Standards Agency, explained: "Children are bombarded with messages that promote food high in fat, salt and sugar. The evidence shows that these messages do influence children. Eating too much of these foods is storing up health problems for their future."

The agency said it will work with schools to push healthier foods higher up the menu, targeting vending machines in schools to increase the range of healthier options. And it is to call on celebrities and sports stars, as well as broadcasters, to help promote healthier foods, by increasing the association between high profile characters and cartoons on TV and healthier foods.

Children represent an easy target for food marketers but a recent survey by Datamonitor showed that parents in Britain may be increasingly aware of the need to monitor their child's diet. Growing awareness of the potential dangers of the snack and junk food culture, with recent lawsuits, government reports, and 'activist' activities, are making parents more sensitive to family nutrition and the new reality (and risks) of the early onset of diabetes and coronary heart disease among obese children.

Health foods that appeal to children could therefore offer a growing opportunity for food manufacturers.

The FSA said it will also develop advice and guidelines for the food industry on reducing amounts of fat, salt and sugar in products specifically aimed at children, and draw up guidelines on the labelling of these products to enable consumers to identify healthier products more easily.

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