30% of children in the South West leave primary school obese or overweight

Around 30% of year six children in the South West are obese or overweight, according to latest statistics (1).

Carrying excess weight into adulthood increases the risk of developing heart disease in later life. Today’s worrying figures mean there are around 17,000 children in the South West leaving primary school obese or overweight.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) is today calling for a ban on all junk food TV advertising before 9pm, as part of the Government’s Childhood Obesity Strategy, to help improve children’s health.

Millions of children across the UK are being exposed to junk food adverts during popular shows such as the X Factor and Hollyoaks.

Analysis (2)  by the BHF shows that weak regulations are creating loopholes that mean that food companies can advertise junk food - high in fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt - during programmes watched by children in the South West.

Shockingly, 13 junk food adverts were shown during just one X Factor show last year, promoting unhealthy snacks such as crisps, chocolate bars and pizzas to the children watching before 9pm.

Current regulations mean that foods high in fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar are banned from being advertised during children’s programming.

But the latest Ofcom figures show that two-thirds (65%) of children watch TV during what is considered adult airtime. Peak viewing for children is between 7 and 8pm when up to 1.8 million children are glued to their TV screens (3).

One of the most popular programmes for children is the X Factor with up to 1.2 million children aged 4-15 watching (3).

During last year’s series, the BHF found adverts for foods high in fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar, such as Cadbury chocolate, Doritos crisps, Kinder chocolate, Chicago Town pizzas and Haribo sweets, all of which are banned during children’s programming.

Weak regulation also allows programmes such as Hollyoaks, shown between 6.30pm and 7pm to be sponsored by Domino’s Pizza, exposing children to adverts for high-saturated fat and salt pizzas up to four times during every 30-minute episode.

The nation’s leading heart charity says current regulations are ‘failing’ families in the South West because they are allowing junk food companies to target children with advertising that would be banned during children’s programming.

The BHF is calling for the Government to announce a ban on junk food advertising before 9pm as part of a robust Childhood Obesity Strategy that is expected later this month.

Mike Hobday, Director of Policy at the BHF, said: “It’s worrying that so many children in the South West are obese or overweight. Carrying excess weight into adulthood increases the risk of developing heart disease in later life.

“We mustn’t allow food companies to continue to exploit a failing regulatory system that allows them to bombard TV screens with junk food adverts at the times when the highest numbers of children are watching TV.

"We need to protect young people against the sophisticated marketing techniques of junk food advertisers to help tackle the obesity crisis which threatens the heart health of future generations.”

National statistics show that children are eating more saturated fat and sugar than is recommended and not enough fruit and vegetables (4).

A third of year six children (33.2%) are overweight or obese in England (5). Obese children are more likely to be obese adults, which in turn increases their risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Last month the BHF joined eighteen organisations to form a national alliance (6) calling for a range of polices to tackle the UK’s obesity crisis. These include:

Robust restrictions on unhealthy food marketing, including a 9pm watershed for TV advertising of junk food
Independent set of incremental reformulation targets, backed by regulation for industry to reduce the sugar, saturated fat and salt in our foods
The government should introduce a 20 per cent tax on sugary drinks
For more information about the BHF’s call for a ban of junk food advertising before 9pm, visit: www.bhf.org.uk/junkfood