from Lionel Stanbrook, director, Food Advertising Unit
Sir; Obesity is of growing concern and the food industry agrees that it is an issue that needs to be tackled. However, the Saturday Essay by Annie Seeley of the Food Commission (15 February 2003) was misguided in its claims about advertising to children.
There are very few complaints by the general public about the advertising of children's products, and there is no such thing as "unhealthy" foods, only unbalanced diets.
Research has also shown that children are much less gullible in the face of advertising than was previously believed.
The industry could and does want to play a role in reducing the problem of obesity, however, any attempt made by industry to help the situation is all too often seen as a cynical attempt to increase sales. So why make a plea for industry involvement when organisations like the Food Commission are the first to attack such attempts?
The industry does not believe any further restrictions on advertising will have any effect on the obesity. In Finland, comprehensive community-based projects were implemented to change dietary habits in order to combat coronary heart disease. This did not include any advertising restrictions and has resulted in a 73% fall in CHD over 25 years.
What there is a need for is greater co-operation and a more constructive dialogue between interested parties. The Food Advertising Unit will shortly be asking all those concerned to join together to make progress towards a solution.
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