Celebs face food advertising ban in tough obesity report

LONDON - Celebrities could be banned from appearing in advertising promoting junk foods if the industry does not accept voluntary codes on marketing and labelling products.

A government report due out later this week will call for restrictions on levels of advertising of unhealthy foods during children's television programming, and also for celebrities to promote healthy lifestyles.

So far, Tessa Jowell, secretary of state for culture, media and sport, has resisted calls from pressure groups such as the Food Commission and the Consumers Association to place an outright ban on advertising junk food on television. It is believed that the new report will not call for an outright ban on celebrities endorsing junk food brands, but that there could be some kind of legislative restrictions imposed on the way the snack industry promotes its products.

The Sunday Express says that the report, published by the House of Commons Health Select Committee this Thursday, interviewed companies such as McDonald's, Walkers Crisps and Pepsi, all of which use sports stars to promote their products. Gary Lineker, who has a long-standing contract to advertise Walkers Crisps, has been branded one of the worst offenders.

One possible solution would be for food and drink companies to fund sports and healthy living activities.

The report will say that obesity is costing the country £5bn a year and that children's life expectancy can be shortened by being overweight. Obesity levels in England have trebled since 1980 and the Food Standards Agency says that more than half of women and about two thirds of men are either overweight or obese.

Other issues it will look at are the sale of sugary soft drinks in schools and the option for school governors to ban junk food from vending machines.

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