British watchdog supports ban on evening junk food adverts

LONDON (AFP) - Britain's food watchdog agreed to push for a ban on television commercials promoting junk food before 9:00 pm in a move that was immediately applauded by health and consumer groups.

A watershed on advertisements for unhealthy products would help protect children's well-being, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said.

The comments came in response to a consultation by Ofcom, Britain's communications regulator, on ways to curb the impact of junk food commercials on youngsters amid growing concern about levels of childhood obesity.

The FSA's board voiced disappointment over three possible sets of restrictions proposed by Ofcom, which fell short of a ban before 9:00 pm.

In a statement, it said: "The board supports a pre-9pm watershed on advertisements for products high in fat, salt or sugar, which would offer a practical means of extending protection to older children and would be consistent with other broadcasting controls."

Ofcom earlier warned that such a ban would cost television channels nearly 141 million pounds (261 million dollars, 207 million euros) in lost advertising revenue and quash commercials aimed at adults.

Josh Bayly, campaigns officer at the British Heart Foundation, welcomed the FSA's stance saying: "The FSA now joins a groundswell of support for the tightest restrictions from numerous groups including parents."