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A 'Watershed' Moment - Why it's Prime Time to Protect Children from Junk Food Adverts


Obesity Health Alliance (OHA)

Subject Keywords: Food and Drink Adverts, Child Health, Television Advertising, TV, Family Viewing, Fruit, Vegetables, Fast Food
Topic: Obesity
Type: Report
Region: United Kingdom

We have a childhood obesity epidemic with more than one in three children in England overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school.

Research already shows us that there is a clear link between the food and drink adverts children see and their food choices and how much they eat.

Existing rules do not protect children from seeing adverts for food and drink products high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) (see glossary on p10) during the TV programmes they watch most. The rules still allow HFSS adverts to be shown during family viewing time when the number of children watching TV is at its highest.

The Obesity Health Alliance commissioned the University of Liverpool to analyse the adverts shown during some of the TV shows popular with children in February 2017 to examine how many HFSS adverts children are exposed to during the programmes they watch most.



Loopholes in regulations mean the most popular programmes with children, even ones marketed as ‘family programmes’, do not have the same safeguards on HFSS advertising as programmes watched only by children. This is despite significantly more children watching these programmes than even the most popular children’s TV programmes.

To protect our children from adverts that we know can influence their food preferences, choices, and consumption, the Government should extend existing regulations to restrict HFSS advertising where children are exposed to the most HFSS advertising. The most effective way to do this would be with a 9pm watershed.

Companies or brands that are ‘synonymous’ with (i.e. very closely associated with) HFSS products should not be allowed to sponsor prime time family TV shows.



Rights: © OHA
Suggested citation:

Obesity Health Alliance (OHA). (2017) A 'Watershed' Moment - Why it's Prime Time to Protect Children from Junk Food Adverts [Online]. Available from: [Accessed: 18th November 2019].


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