Junk food manufacturers should be banned from targeting unhealthy products at children, public health doctors said today (Monday 7 June).
The BMA's Annual Conference of Public Health Medicine called on the government to ban television advertising of junk foods before the watershed, and on all channels aimed at children.
Dr Peter Tiplady, chairman of the BMA's Public Health Committee, said the measure was essential to protect children's health: "Children are being bombarded with adverts for products that are extremely bad for their health. Food manufacturers are deliberately targeting them by using sports personalities to send out the message that junk food and fizzy drinks will make them more popular."
Dr Kailash Agrawal, who chaired the conference, said: "Childhood obesity is a public health time bomb. If the government ignores it we will see huge increases in diabetes, strokes, cancer and heart disease - obesity has the potential to cause the same devastation as smoking."
In his address to the conference Dr Tiplady called for a joined-up approach to tackle the problem. Commenting on the need for action from schools and government, he said: "It's easy to say that obesity is a matter of personal choice, but often that's not true for children. Schools should allow children to eat healthily and get enough exercise, but many have sold off their playing fields, installed junk food vending machines, and failed to provide healthy school meals. If we're going to prevent a major public health crisis we need a joined up approach. Schools and local authorities have a huge responsibility but they need enough funding to be able to provide safe playing areas and healthy food."