Snack makers to pay for health advertising?

Related tags Public health Nutrition

Food manufacturers in the UK should be forced to pay for health
awareness advertising to counterbalance the promotion of their
unhealthy products, doctors said on Thursday.

The money would be used to launch public health advertising campaigns equal to the advertising for junk foods.

Particularly targeted would be foods aimed at children such as crisps and biscuits, and those foods that contribute towards heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure through their high salt, fat and sugar contents.

The motion, proposed by Dr Noel Olsen and backed by doctors at the British Medical Association (BMA) annual conference, comes as a call for food manufacturers to recognize their corporate public health responsibilities.

"By aggressively marketing junk food which is known to be bad for health, these companies have a contributory responsibility for the damage which is done, and they must accept their share of the consequences,"​ said Dr Olsen, public health doctor and member of the BMA Public Health Committee.

"We are now in a precautionary period. Either the food industry responds to public health concerns or sooner or later they will be hit hard. We will now move towards negotiations with the government and, even though these things take a long time, in the long term it is always public health that wins: the polluter must pay,"​ he told

Commenting on the rising trend for food manufacturers to launch health-oriented products, Dr Olsen said "all such movements have to be welcomed, but their concept of healthy food is to reduce the salt content in crisps by 10 per cent."

According to the doctor, the main area of concern is the food industry's failure to work together with the public health committee to produce healthy snacks and foods. "They should be allies, not at war,"​ he said. "Most food technologists know nothing about nutrition."

The motion that was passed at the BMA yesterday targets alcohol and tobacco firms as well as junk food manufacturers.

It is based on the American 'fairness doctrine', which advocates right of reply and balanced coverage of controversial issues, and which, in 1960's America, was so effective that the tobacco industry halted advertising.

Dr Olsen does not aspire to the same success, but presents a more acceptable alternative. "Where the government is not prepared to ban advertising altogether, we feel that it should at least provide equal advertising. It should work together with the Public Health Committee and the tobacco, alcohol and food industries in order to ensure that consumers get the full picture."

Related topics Ingredients Health

Related news

Show more