Scottish Government
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Junk food TV advertising

Majority of children have seen marketing

The Scottish Government has renewed calls for junk food advertising to be banned before 9pm, following a new study which showed the extent of children’s exposure to food and drink marketing.

The research, conducted by Ipsos-Mori for the Scottish Government, found 63.5 per cent of 11-18 year olds had seen at least one food or drink marketing promotion in the last seven days. A significant proportion of these were through the broadcast media.

Of those sightings the majority, 74 per cent, were for energy dense and low nutrition foods – products like sweets, chocolate and cake. Twenty four per cent of sightings were for sugar-sweetened soft drinks and 21 per cent for chocolate and sugar-based confectionery.

Nearly half of those surveyed, 47 per cent, reported making a marketing-prompted purchase in the last seven days.

Minister for Public Health, Maureen Watt, has written again to Jane Ellison, UK Public Health Minister, to ask that adverts for high fat, salt, and sugar foods be stopped before 9pm. Powers over broadcasting are currently reserved to Westminster. They are currently banned during children’s programmes, but prime-time early evening shows, which are watched by large numbers of under 16s, are currently permitted.

Ms Watt said:

“This report gives further evidence of the need to curb the marketing of food and drink that is high in fat, salt and sugar. It shows us that a large number of 11 to 18 year-olds have seen television adverts for these foods, and it also shows that nearly half of respondents have made a purchase based on marketing they’ve seen in the last seven days.

“It’s clear that banning these adverts only during children’s programming is not stopping under-16s from seeing them. I therefore call on the UK Government to extend that ban to all programming before the 9pm watershed.

“If we are serious about tackling obesity, and reducing the prevalence of conditions like Type 2 diabetes, we need to make it as easy as possible for young people to eat healthy diets. That means looking seriously at the marketing of unhealthy food and drink. Reducing their exposure to such advertising on TV is a simple first step, and one that I believe should be taken without further delay."

James Cant, Director of British Heart Foundation Scotland, said:

“Over a quarter of children in Scotland are overweight or obese and dietary surveys show that children are eating too much salt, sugar and saturated fat.

“The UK Government must act now to ban junk food marketing before the 9pm watershed to help give children a stronger chance of avoiding future heart disease.”


The Impact of Food and Drink Marketing on Scotland’s Children and Young People can be seen here :

Public Health England published its report on Sugar Reduction on 22 October. Two of its eight key recommendations relate to marketing:

  • Reduce and rebalance the number and type of price promotions in all retail outlets including supermarkets and convenience stores and the out-of-home sector (including restaurants, cafes and takeaways).
  • Significantly reduce opportunities to market and advertise high-sugar food and drink products to children and adults across all media including digital platforms and through sponsorship.


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