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Having worked for ten years in children’s television then starting his own business producing healthy snacks specifically designed for kids, Paul Lindley has direct experience of the paradoxes and loopholes in legislation on this issue.
“Although regulations on advertising to children are essential and helpful, the government shouldn’t expect that a ‘ban culture’ will provide a blanket protection, whether it be against smoking, drinking, gambling or junk food.
We can’t expect to plan, legislate or regulate childhood trends without actually connecting with kids on their own level” explains Lindley. “Some excellent campaigns have taken a grass roots approach to educate kids about health, with Nickelodeon’s ‘Nicktrition’ tips for a healthy lifestyle appearing on hundreds of affiliated products and Jamie Oliver’s School Dinners shaming many caterers into action. This is what Ella’s Kitchen have done by producing snacks which appeal to kids because of their tastes and textures primarily. They happen to be healthy too.
The government can’t simply impose restrictions on the fattest nation in Europe as there will always be a loophole. Even the recent OFCOM restrictions do not apply to brand advertising or to programmes which are not disproportionately watched by children.
Sponsorship is the new way around advertising rules and certain energy drinks are marketed by sports personalities as healthy aides to fitness when really most are packed with glucose, artificial sweetners, colourings and preservatives. “Lots of teenagers only become interested in health when they realise it affects their sporting performance. Regularly drinking these energy drinks can make a devastating impact on their blood sugar levels providing an increased risk of diabetes and obesity thereby actually reducing sporting ability,” says Sam Fuller, Nutritional Consultant to Ella’s Kitchen. “I often provide teenagers with tailor-made diets to help to enhance their fitness, which are always based on a balance of protein and carbohydrates with lots of fruit and vegetables.”
It is a deadly shame that this contradictory and frankly false relationship between health and certain ‘sports drinks’ is marketed to kids, who pass vending machines packed with junk even in ‘sports centres’. Athletes may fail to act responsibly in their choice of product endorsement, but the government needs to choose between trying to ban everything, or take a proactive approach. Private enterprises such as ‘Superschools’ organise for British Olympic medallists to tour primary schools, showcasing their skills and encouraging an early and realistic interest in sports. Hopefully kids with this kind of knowledge will see through the gloss of celebrity endorsements.
If the Government is to intervene it should be in areas like taxation, education, public awareness campaigns and large warnings on packaging, allowing people to make informed decisions.”