Childhood obesity is a serious issue that continues to plague countries all across the world. Now, a junk food advertising ban has been launched with the hope of changing those numbers.
A Real Health Crisis
According to the World Health Organization, 39 million children under the age of five were overweight or obese in 2020. WHO data from 2016 shows that over 340 million kids between the ages of five and 19 were overweight or obese. That’s higher than the population of the United States (which, incidentally, is expected to reach an obesity rate of 50% by 2030).
Nations have been struggling to address the issue for years, and meanwhile childhood obesity continues to rise. It all comes down to a healthy diet, but the medical world has found it frustratingly difficult to convince families to alter their eating habits. The fact that obesity can lead to poor health and even death hasn’t motivated people to change their destructive habits.
Junk Food Advertising Ban
In the United Kingdom, more than 60% of the adult population is overweight or obese, according to the National Health Service, and the UK has earned the distinct honor of being the sixth most obese nation on the planet. The NHS estimates that 10% of four- and five-year-olds in the UK are obese, and that the percentage rises as the ages increase.
But the UK government is attempting to tackle the problem. In an attempt to steer children away from unhealthy foods, and to follow through on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s pledge to address the growing obesity crisis, officials intend to put a limit on junk food advertisements. In fact, they’ve said that as of the end of 2023, TV channels (including on-demand) will be barred from airing commercials for any foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt before 9:00pm.
The ban will extend to TV adverts for breakfast cereals, yogurts, ready meals, chicken nuggets and battered fish. The UK’s Department of Health said that honey, olive oil, avocados and Marmite would be excluded from the ban because those items are not considered to be significant contributors to childhood obesity. The new restrictions will not affect companies with fewer than 250 employees, like curry houses, pizzerias and candy shops.
Will other countries follow the UK’s lead? That remains to be seen. But the conversation has started in Canada, where a number of nutritionists and food policy experts have suggested that a ban on junk food advertisements wouldn’t have much of an effect on Canadians’ eating habits. The experts did clarify, however, that the ban wouldn’t hurt, and that if it were combined with other policies that promote healthy eating, it could be successful.