Around 370 children are leaving Burnley primary schools with an increased risk of developing heart disease in later life according to statistics compiled by the Government’s National Child Measurement Programme.
The British Heart Foundation is now calling for a ban on all junk food TV advertising before 9pm to help curb the “UK’s obesity crisis”.
According to the charity, millions of children across the country are being exposed to junk food adverts during popular shows such as “X Factor” and “Hollyoaks”.
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 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 of children watch TV during what is considered adult airtime with up to 1.8 million of them glued to their TV screens between 7 and 8pm. “X Factor” is one of the most popular programmes with around one million children aged 4 to 15 tuning in every week.
During last year’s series, the BHF found adverts for foods including 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 Burnley as they are allowing junk food companies to target children and Mike Hobday, director of policy at the BHF, said: “It’s worrying that so many children in Burnley 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.
A third of year six children (33.2%) are overweight or obese in England. 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 18 organisations to form a national alliance calling for a range of polices to tackle this obesity crisis including robust restrictions on unhealthy food marketing and a 20% tax on sugary drinks.
For more information visit www.bhf.org.uk/junkfood.