Child obesity messages not working

The continued promotion of high calorie food and drink is evidence that child obesity messages are failing to have the desired effect, it has been claimed. World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) has expressed concern that nine of the 20 favourite kid's brands advocate unhealthy consumption and noted the finding should act as a wake-up call to the food industry.

According to the study, companies such as Walkers Crisps, McDonald's and Coca-Cola are among the main offenders.

The WCRF said the investigation suggests food marketing restrictions are not working, adding bans on such adverts should be extended to TV shows that are watched by youngsters but not officially classified as children's programmes.

Kate Mendoza, Head of Education at WCRF - which published its first landmark report in 1997 - said: "It is difficult enough for parents to get their children to eat healthy food if their children are constantly bombarded by messages portraying unhealthy food as fun and aspirational."

Chartered Clinical Psychologist Dr Abigael San commented: "This article highlights the dangers of unhealthy eating in children and reinforces the idea that advertising contributes significantly to the problem of obesity in children. However, even with restrictions on advertising the nation still faces a growing problem which underscores the importance of acknowledging the broader context and the various other reasons that messages regarding the dangers of poor diets in children are not getting through. Many families function at a faster pace than allows making healthy eating easy and habitual. Filling lunch boxes with processed foods and sugary snacks is perceived as hassle-free, as is grabbing a take-away at the weekend and offering packet foods in front of the television. Compared to finding the time to prepare fresh and healthy food. If healthy eating is not a priority and in our consciousness, then messages promoting it will not be easily processed".

The problem of child obesity is one that has been tackled in a report published by the British Psychological Society's Professional Practice Board.

Commenting on the Society's report Dr Kairen Cullen said: "It is important for the diverse skills and knowledge of researchers and practitioners to be brought together to support a better understanding and more effective ways of helping individual children, their families and society as a whole".