Tony Blair has warned the food industry to take action over junk food adverts or face a government crackdown.
In a keynote speech on public health, the Prime Minister said the food companies had until next year to show they could regulate their own ads.
He added: ‘We are working on a code with the food industry on limiting the advertising of junk food to children. But if by 2007 the voluntary code hasn’t worked, we will make it mandatory.’
Broadcast regulator Ofcom has been consulting with the food industry over ways to limit children’s exposure to junk food ads. It’s proposing to curb junk food ads only during children’s TV programmes.
But following research into when children watch TV, Which? has called for a complete pre-9pm ban on junk food ads – a position shared by the government’s food watchdog, the Food Standards Agency.
Mr Blair also said consumers wanted a ‘single clear system’ of food labelling so that shoppers could make healthy choices.
Asda, Boots, the Co-op, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose have indicated they will use a labelling system formulated by the Food Standards Agency, but other major food manufacturers and stores, including Tesco, have snubbed the scheme and created their own.
Mr Blair warned: ‘It will be much better if the industry comes together voluntarily around this scheme but, once again, we are prepared to act if the voluntary system does not work.’
Which? welcomed Mr Blair’s warning to the food industry. Nick Stace, Director of Campaigns at Which?, said: ‘The Prime Minister is right to emphasise the importance of everyone playing their part in creating a healthier nation. Real action is required to reduce the personal tragedies as well as the national blight on public health that the obesity time-bomb has created.
‘Children are still exposed to unrelenting marketing and promotion of unhealthy foods from an industry that has yet to show it can act responsibly. Today’s warning to industry to play their part in tackling the nation’s biggest public health challenge or face the legislative stick should be the wake-up call the industry needs.’