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FSA Debate On Defusing The Diet Timebomb

PRESS RELEASE
2004/0451

Tuesday 27th January 2004

MOST CONSUMERS THINK PARENTS HAVE MAIN RESPONSIBILITY FOR CHILDREN'S DIETS

Food Standards Agency encourages consumers to join its debate on defusing the diet timebomb

Most consumers think that parents should be responsible for improving their kids' diets, according to the results of a poll carried out on behalf of the Food Standards Agency. The poll forms part of the Agency's current activity to debate and consider the way foods are currently promoted and advertised to children.

When asked to list who should take responsibility for improving children's diets in order of importance, 88% of consumers thought parents had most responsibility. 43% of consumers thought that schools were second most responsible, with food manufacturers third (30%) and broadcasters fourth (26%).

However, while consumers recognise the key role parents have to play, they also gave an indication of the help and assistance parents need from schools, food manufacturers and Government in order to take action.

Most consumers (85%) thought that there should be greater controls over the way fast foods are promoted to children.

Most (82%) thought that endorsements from celebrities, such as pop stars or TV presenters, have considerable influence on children's choice of different foods.

Over half (56%) thought that sweets and chocolates should be removed from the supermarket checkouts.

Sir John Krebs, Chair of the Food Standards Agency, said:

"The rising level of obesity in children is worrying to us all, not least to the parents of those children. Doing nothing is not an option but reversing the trend is a huge task and one in which we all have a role to play.

The British public recognise the role that parents must play in improving the diets and health of their children. But it is also clear from our poll that they can't do it on their own - they need support from schools, industry, broadcasters and Government if they are to make a difference."

These issues will be discussed at 'Defusing the diet timebomb', a public debate featuring a panel of informed and lively speakers, being held by the Agency in central London tonight (Tuesday 27th January) between 6.30 and 8.00pm. The event will chaired by broadcaster Jeremy Vine.

Tickets for the debate are no longer available, but members of the public can still take part. The debate is being broadcast live on Sky Digital Channel 687 and there will be the opportunity to text questions in to the panel. Alternatively the event is also being webcast live on www.food.gov.uk and members of the public can email questions from the site .

Views and opinions discussed at the event will contribute towards shaping the proposals on policy options that will be considered by the Agency's Board in March.

Notes to editors:

The poll interviewed a nationally representative sample of 2000 adults across the UK on the 9th - 13th January 2004 and was carried out by RSGB Omnibus, on behalf of the Food Standards Agency.

The panellists are: Kierra Box, student and youth activist; Andrew Brown, Director General of the Advertising Association; Dr Susan Jebb, Head of Nutrition and Health Research at the Medical Research Council; Richard Reeves, writer and management consultant; Richard D North, commentator and Antony Worrall Thompson, chef.

In September 2003, the Agency published a comprehensive, peer-reviewed, independent research project, Does Food Promotion Influence Children? A Systematic Review of the Evidence, led by Professor Gerard Hastings. The review concluded that food promotion to children does have an effect on their food choices and behaviour.

Following the research, the Agency published its policy options paper, Promotional Activity and Children's Diets in November 2003. The paper laid out a spectrum of policy options, including measures that could cover sponsorship, advertising, labelling, endorsements, in-store activity and loyalty schemes.

The Board of the Food Standards Agency will consider Agency policy and what recommendations it might want to make to Government on the way foods are promoted and advertised to children at its open Board meeting on March 11th.

[ENDS]


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