Which? has renewed calls for a 9pm watershed for junk food ads after new research revealed more than half of the 20 programmes most watched by children under 10 are not covered by current rules.
The restrictions – introduced in April – ban adverts for foods high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) from being shown in or around programmes aimed at or which appeal to the under 10s.
But the rules are based on the proportion of children watching a programme rather than the actual number.
This means that adverts promoting unhealthy foods are not allowed during programmes such as The Simpsons, which has a child audience of 163,200, but are allowed during programmes such as The X Factor, which has nearly three times the child audience at 442,300.
Which? looked at the TV viewing figures for ITV 1, Channel 4 and 5 for two weeks in September to see which programmes children under 10 and children under 16 were watching in the largest numbers.
Our analysis of the adverts during the programmes with the most child viewers revealed that products such as Mars Planets, Kinder Bueno, Milky Way, Smarties and Twix are being advertised at these times.
In January 2008 the current rules will be extended to programmes with a high proportion of viewers under the age of 16.
If those rules applied today, just two of the top 20 programmes would be covered.
Which? food campaigner Miranda Watson said: ‘This research shows that unhealthy foods are being advertised during the programmes with the highest number of child viewers, such as The X-Factor. The only way to shield children from TV ads for unhealthy foods is a 9pm watershed.
‘There is no silver bullet in the fight against obesity but tougher restrictions on the way unhealthy foods are marketed to children will play an important role in helping parents to instill healthy eating habits in their children.’
The 20 shows with the highest number of viewers under 10 (programmes in bold are covered by current restrictions):
1. Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway
2. The X-Factor
3. New You’ve Been Framed
4. Coronation Street
6. The Simpsons
7. The Bill
8. Film: The Lord Of The Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring
9. Spongebob Squarepants
10. Animals Do The Funniest Things
12. Britain’s Favourite View
13. Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
15. American Dragon
16. Film: Edward Scissorhands
17. Power Rangers Mystic Force
20. Marc Bolan: 20th Century Boy