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The Childrens Food Bill: Why we need a new law, not more voluntary approaches

This report places the crisis in children's diet-related health in the context of the unhealthy food environments which have become part-and-parcel of their every day lives. Using a range of examples from a number of policy areas (for example, control of tobacco advertising, alcohol promotion and marketing of breastmilk substitutes), the report explains how industry is unable, in a competitive market, to exercise the social responsibility required to make voluntary approaches successful. It also demolishes the many arguments used by the food and advertising industries to promote self-regulation rather than effective legislation.

31/05/2005
Children's Food Campaign
ISBN: 1 903060 37 0 - 40pp - 2005

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This report places the crisis in children's diet-related health in the context of the unhealthy food environments which have become part-and-parcel of their everyday lives.

Using a range of examples from a number of policy areas (for example, control of tobacco advertising, alcohol promotion and marketing of breastmilk substitutes), the report explains how industry is unable, in a competitive market, to exercise the social responsibility required to make voluntary approaches successful. It also demolishes the many arguments used by the food and advertising industries to promote self-regulation rather than effective legislation.


Report contents

Summary

1. What is wrong with children's diets?

  • The "timebomb" is exploding
  • What is causing the problem?
    • Junk food promotions targeted at children
    • Poor quality food in schools
    • Inadequate food education and skills
    • Insufficient promotion for healthy food
  • How the Children's Food Bill will address the causes
    • Improving the quality of children’s food
    • Protecting children from unhealthy food marketing
    • Improving the quality of food in schools
    • Ensuring all children have essential food skills and knowledge
    • Promoting healthy food to children
    • Support for the Children's Food Bill
  • Government's current approach
    • The five-a-day programme
    • The "Jamie Oliver" initiative
    • No change in the curriculum
    • Voluntary restrictions on food marketing

2. Voluntary approaches do not work

  • Case studies
    • Tobacco advertising
    • Alcohol promotion
    • Marketing breastmilk substitutes
    • Using pesticides and antibiotics in farming
    • Controlling supermarket power
  • Why are voluntary approaches ineffective?
    • Voluntary codes are weak
    • There are commercial incentives not to comply
    • There are no meaningful sanctions for non-compliance
    • Independent operation and monitoring is rare
    • The real purpose of voluntary approaches?

3. Arguments used against the Children's Food Bill

  • There is no problem
  • There is a problem, but it is all down to physical inactivity
  • All foods can be healthy
  • Food marketing has no, or only a minor effect on children's diets
  • Media literacy is the solution
  • Voluntary codes are more flexible
  • Marketing is already heavily regulated
  • It is parents' responsibility, not the "nanny" state
  • An ad ban would be:
  • Anti-competitive
  • Disproportionate
  • A short-term, simplistic and populist measure
  • A problem for children's TV
  • Ineffective
  • Too costly

References

Appendices

  • National organisations supporting the Children’s Food Bill
  • MPs who signed Early Day Motion 1256 in support of the Children's Food Bill

 

Better food and food teaching for children in schools, and protection of children from junk food marketing are the aims of Sustain's high-profile Children's Food Campaign. We also want clear food labelling that can be understood by everyone, including children.

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Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.