A ban with bite? UK junk food advertising prohibition kicks in.

The Guardian carries a story on the attempts by the British telecommunications regulator, Ofcom, to ban the advertising of junk food to children. How do they administer the ban?

if the proportion of the audience under 16 is more than 20% higher than the proportion of under-16s in the UK population as a whole, the programme is defined as one which attracts a significantly higher than average proportion of viewers in that age group.

And for such programmes, the advertising of foods high in fat, sugar, and salt (HFSS) is prohibited. It’s a smart move. For every $1 spent on promoting healthy food, $500 is spent on junk food – and the desirability of junk food explains, in no small part, the increasing rates of childhood obesity, as Marion Nestle has argued in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Supermarkets in the UK are already getting the message. As The Guardian notes:

A spokeswoman for M&S admitted that the company was having to reassess its marketing strategy.

Of course, this isn’t going to solve childhood obesity – the HFSS foods themselves haven’t disappeared. Nor have the working conditions that make them an almost necessary option for working parents with no time to feed their children properly. And an advertising ban isn’t going to bring fresh and healthy foods to areas redlined by supermarkets. But it’s a start.