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UK parents hounded by their kids to buy junk food they see on TV – BHF calls for ban on junk food ads before 9pm

Seven in ten (70%) parents with children aged 4 to 16 have been pestered by their children to buy they have seen advertised on TV, according to a new survey by the ahead of Heart Month this February.1

The polled over 2,100 UK parents with children aged 16 and under, and found more than two fifths (43%) of parents with children aged 4 to 16 say they are badgered by their children at least once a week.

Almost two fifths (39%) of parents surveyed also said they think junk food adverts on TV make it difficult to help their children eat a healthy diet.2

The BHF believes that this survey highlights the urgent need to close legal loopholes in the UK’s regulatory system which mean companies are free to promote and drink products to children both online and on TV during popular family TV shows.

Around a third of children in the UK are currently overweight or obese.3 Obese children are more likely to become obese adults, putting them at greater risk of a coronary heart disease, stroke and some cancers in later life.

Research by broadcasting regulator Ofcom found television advertising can impact on children’s food preferences, consumption and behaviour4, and that younger children in particular cannot distinguish advertising from entertainment5.

The BHF is calling for the UK Government to introduce tighter restrictions online and ban junk food adverts being shown before the 9pm watershed to protect children from making unhealthy choices.

Mike Hobday, Director of Policy at the British Heart Foundation, said: “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.

“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.”

To sign up to our junk food marketing petition visit www.bhf.org.uk/junkfood


1) All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,188 parents of children aged 16 and under, of which 1,802 have children aged 4 to 16. Fieldwork was undertaken between 9th – 14th January 2015. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

2) Respondents were asked which, if any, of the following do you think are/ will become obstacles to you helping your child(ren) eat a healthy diet? (Please select all that apply).
a. Junk food” adverts (e.g. sweets, chocolate etc.) on television
b. Marketing of “junk food” online (e.g. sweets, chocolate etc.)
c. Confectionery at supermarket checkouts (e.g. sweets, chocolate, cakes etc.)
d. Fast food takeaways near my child(ren)’s school/ college
e. Vending machines at my child(ren)’s school/ college
f. Unhealthy food at leisure centres
g. None of these
h. Don’t know

3) BHF UK estimate based on latest health surveys.

4) Television Advertising of Food and Drink Products to Children: Options for new restrictions: A consultation by Ofcom, March 2006

5) Childhood obesity – food advertising in context by S Livingstone, 2004.

Source: British Heart Foundation (BHF)