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Campaigners call for halt to junk food ads before 9pm

Stopping junk food adverts before 9.00pm could curb the growing obesity epidemic, healthcare campaigners have claimed. 

An analysis by the Action on Junk Food Marketing group found that one in ten adverts shown during the X Factor in ITV, and the Simpson and Hollyoaks on Channel 4 promoted fast food, confectionary or supermarket 'junk food'. 

Current laws to protect children only cover children's programmes, but the campaign group has found that children's TV viewing peaks at around 8.00pm. 

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation which is part of the campaign group, said: "Parents don't expect their children to be bombarded with ads for unhealthy food during primetime TV, but that's exactly what happens.

"Even when the show is over, junk food marketers could be reaching out to young people online. A lack of regulation means companies are free to lure kids into playing games and entering competitions - all with a view to pushing their product."

Prof Mitch Blair, officer for health promotion at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said advertising junk food during family-friendly programmes like the X Factor is known to work.

"Not only are children and young people easily influenced and parents worn down by pester power, but food companies wouldn't spend huge amounts of money if it wasn't effective."

However, the government has claimed that advertising is only “one aspect” in children's food choices. The issue is currently under review”. 

And the Advertising Association told the BBC that current advertising rules are working. 

Communications director Ian Barber added: "The UK's evidenced-based approach to the advertising rules works, balancing sensible protections with the freedom to advertise, allowing companies to compete - to the benefit of us all - and providing important funding for free-to-air TV."