Whole milk passes UK junk food test

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition, Fsa

Whole milk will not be blacklisted as a product unsuitable to be
advertised on children's television in the UK, the Food Standards
Agency has revealed.

The move will ensure that dairy processors will be allowed to target products containing whole milk at children, without the need for product reformulation. The FSA made the announcement last week, after concerns were raised regarding the nutritional value of the milk. It ruled that whole milk does not constitute a high fat, salt or sugar product, and so is not "junk food". The decision was taken following discussions between the FSA and industry associations Dairy UK and the Dairy Council, which were asked to supply product information for nutrient profiling. Junk food is gradually being banned from being advertised during children's programmes, under an FSA drive. When a nutrient profiling system for identifying "junk food"​ was first developed, the FSA had used official UK figures for the composition of whole milk, based on the sixth summary edition of The Composition of Foods, published in 2002. In June this year, concerns were raised that some samples of whole milk should be classed as a high fat, sugar or salt product. However, the data supplied by the dairy industry was found, on average, to be in line with the FSA requirements as a product unsuitable to be advertised to children. The announcement will fuel concerns in the industry over the nutrient profiling system, used to judge whether a food is suitable for being banned from adverts aimed at children. The UK-wide ban has been imposed over growing concerns regarding childhood obesity throughout many Western European countries. It came into affect on 1 April this year, though has not been taken as a joke by some food and beverage producers. UK regulators and the food and advertising industries have hotly debated the issue of how much TV advertising is to blame for the current obesity crisis and whether ad restrictions are an appropriate way to curb it. Critics claim it is far too stringent, and that food advertising is only one of many measures to address the obesity rates in the UK. Presently, 80 per cent of spending of food advertising within children​'s airtime is for foods high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) - the term the FSA​ prefers to 'junk food'; and around a third of two to 15-year-olds in the UK are overweight or obese. As agreed in October 2005, the FSA will review the impact of the measure in 12 months' time. A spokesperson said earlier in the year that the review will investigate how the nutrient profiling​ model, under which foods that may be advertised are determined, works in practice. "The review will consider changes in foods advertised to children and the views of all interested parties,"​ they said. But in the meantime, advertisements for HFSS foods will not be permitted in or around programmes made for children (including pre-school children), or in or around programmes that are likely to be of particular appeal to children aged four to nine. The regulation is being introduced in several stages. From 1 January 2008, HFSS advertisements will not be permitted in or around programmes made for children (including pre-school children), or in or around programmes that are likely to be of particular appeal to children aged four to 15. Children's channels will be allowed a graduated phase-in period, with full implementation required by the end of December 2008. The move was originally conceived by advertising regulator Ofcom to restrict advertising around programmes of specific interest to the under-9s, and the extended to young people up to the age of 16 years has been a particular bone of contention. Melanie Leech, director general of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) called the extension "over the top"​ and said Ofcom had "moved the goalposts".​ She said last November that the restrictions were likely to intrude into the evening schedule and be a curb on adult viewing.

Related topics: Markets, Fresh Milk

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