Jamie Oliver campaign to protect children from junk food ads

Jamie Oliver is campaigning to protect children from junk food advertising.
Picture: Dominic Lipin

Jamie Oliver is campaigning to protect children from junk food advertising. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Jamie Oliver’s ‘ad enough.

And he’s not the only one. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall feels the same way.

Both chefs and food campaigners are taking aim at the way the unhealthy foods that are fuelling Britain’s obesity epidemic are promoted and advertised.

Jamie, who grew up in Essex and regularly holidayed on the Norfolk Broads as a child, has launched a new campaign to protect children from junk food marketing, calling on the Government to introduce a 9pm TV advertising watershed for food and drink high in unhealthy fats, sugar and salt and introduce proper controls on what ads children see online, in the street and on public transport.

It’s not about stopping big brands from advertising, he says, but controlling the time and place in order to protect children.

The chef, who has previously campaigned to make school dinners healthier and for the recently-introduced sugar tax, says: “If kids are constantly being targeted with cheap, easily accessible, unhealthy junk food, just think how hard it must be to make better, healthier choices. We have to make it easier for children to make good decisions.

“These ads undermine any positive work we’re doing in schools or at home to tackle the rise of childhood obesity. Currently, there’s nothing in place to protect our kids from seeing these adverts – apart from literally covering their eyes! And that’s where our #AdEnough campaign comes in.”

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As part of his campaign, Jamie, who has a restaurant in Norwich, is asking people to show their support by posting an image of themselves hiding their eyes on social media with the hashtag #AdEnough.

“This simple, repeated image will be a powerful signal to the government that our kids have had enough,” he says. “This could be a really key moment in our fight against childhood obesity.”

Celebrities who have got on board already include supermodel Claudia Schiffer, who has a home in Suffolk, and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who is also highlighting how consumers are being misled and bombarded by food marketing and advertising in Britain’s Fat Fight, a new three-part TV series beginning tomorrow on BBC One.

Following his war on waste and his battle for fairer fishing, Hugh is shining a light on Britain’s obesity crisis and says he hopes his new series, which looks at why we are eating so much, how we have become one of the most obese countries and Europe and how we can change before it’s too late, will “create a bit of mischief and shake things up”.

“The life force that sustains us is food, and it has the capacity to bring such pleasure and joy,” he says. “But it is almost to the point where it is doing more harm than good. Two-thirds of the population are overweight or obese, a quarter of the population are clinically obese, 30% of us are pre-diabetic. We have to really look at the whole food culture, the profound over-availability of these highly calorific, highly processed and hyper-palatable foods.”

In the programme, he challenges big corporations whose food labelling methods - from colourful packaging to the lack of transparency in nutritional information displays - leave consumers confused. Highlighting how much sugar is often unknowingly packed into big-brand cereals, he shocks a group of parents when they realise how much their children are consuming daily.

The marketing tactics sometimes used to sell unwanted confectionery to shop customers also enrages him. “We’re are all a little bit tired of having to walk our kids by a wall of confectionery with things for them to glare at - at eye level,” he says.

Among other things, he wants restaurants to start offering healthier choices, particularly for children, and for food companies to “have a sense of corporate responsibility for our health”, to stop marketing certain foods in a very “aggressive way” by “ringing bells and whistles and adding colourful whizz-bangs” to their products.

“We just want our kids to be happy, and we just want it to be easier to make healthy, responsible choices,” he says.

‘Action is needed’

Concern about marketing of unhealthy food and drink isn’t confined to the world of celebrity campaigning.

Dr Stuart Flint, a senior research fellow in public health and obesity at Leeds Becket University who works with Onelife Suffolk, the county’s healthy lifestyle service provider, has researched the role of marketing in fostering favourable attitudes towards unhealthy food and drink products and highlighted that many brands do appear to target children and vulnerable people.

He says: “Efforts such as Jamie Oliver’s #AdEnough campaign are positive. Marketing of unhealthy food and drink is rife; through sport, on transport, on games and at children’s and young people’s events. In some cases brands are marketing products directly, through role model endorsement, whilst other forms are more subtle, such as sponsorship of sports events. This marketing is highly influential in developing positive attitudes towards brands and their products, which consequently influence consumption and associated health (problems).

“It is imperative we intervene to prevent brands marketing unhealthy food and drink to children and young people. We need to reduce positive attitudes towards unhealthy food and drink whilst improving attitudes towards healthier food. In some cases, authorities, organisations, and individuals must resist the money that is offered to support unhealthy food and drink promotion.”

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