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The food advertising preying on our children

02 February 2021
Volume 2 · Issue 1

Every day, we are bombarded by advertising. It takes all forms: print, broadcast, billboards, sponsorship, placement, proximity marketing through smartphones, algorithms and ‘influencers’ on social media and online, and cleverly placed corporate logos. Advertising is relentless.

Lockdown means that children and young people are spending increasing amounts of time behind screens, whether for school work or to socialise or play. It means that they are exposed to more advertising than ever, much of which they may not even recognise as such. While traditional adverts can be a problem, particularly when it comes to unhealthy foods high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) (see page 31), targeted online marketing is much worse. It makes it easier for advertisers to bypass parental control and harder for children to escape their influence.

Food adverts have come under renewed scrutiny. The government has consulted on a proposed ban on all online HFSS food advertising (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and Department of Health and Social Care, 2020). Responding to the proposal, organisations representing the advertising industry lamented the potential impact on the advertising and food industries. They stated that (IAB UK, 2020):

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