Between the Lines: Can ad curbs fight the flab?

The pressure on Ofcom to curb the amount of snack-food advertising on TV smacks of over-reaction by a government anxious to be seen to be doing something about Britain's weight problem (page 2).

The ad industry is rightly concerned at the short time the new code will be given to prove its effectiveness before ministers decide whether or not the advertising of certain "unhealthy" foods should be banned. With obesity now a hot political issue, the last thing the Government wants is to be seen to be sitting on its hands. Keeping junk-food ads off the screen is an easy gesture to make. But it is probably a meaningless one.

For one thing, snack-food manufacturers have already had to react to changing public attitudes to foods with high sugar and salt content. And who decides what constitutes "good" and "bad" food? For another, consumers are growing resentful about being patronised. Everybody knows "bad" food is not the problem, only the excessive consumption of it. A "nannying" government that insults the national intelligence does so at its peril.

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