from Jeremy Preston, director, Food Advertising Unit

Sir; The vast majority of the media coverage of the Food Standards Agency report on the promotion of food to children (The Grocer, September 27, p29) has been very one-sided. Parents supply about 90% of the family’s food requirements and therefore it is they, essentially, who control the diet.

The view that children make parents’ lives unbearable by asking for advertised items is not supported by recent research in which parents acknowledged the presence of “pester power” but recognised this is part of a child’s development. (Indeed “pester power” was around long before TV advertising). More than 80% stated that they did not concede to immediate demands.

The UK has one of the strictest codes of practice in the EU relating to the content of food advertising to children. Advertisers are not allowed to communicate excessive consumption or frequency, snacks cannot be portrayed as main meal substitutes and showing snacking pre bedtime is forbidden.

Overweight and obesity are caused by an imbalance between food consumption and energy expenditure. Government statistics point to a decline in calorific intake among children over the last 10-15 years; it is also widely accepted there has been an even greater reduction in exercise. Changing lifestyles are the core of these problems.

The food and advertising industries acknowledge that the trend towards overweight and obesity among children has to be addressed and wish to contribute to the solution.

We live in a country where there is freedom of choice. and advertising provides information to help people to decide where to spend their money. There is no compulsion to buy.