CASH comment on ofcom decision on TV advertising of junk food

17 November 2006

“We are very disappointed that Ofcom have not been brave enough to ban the advertising of junk food to children before the 9 p.m. watershed.

The high levels of salt in some of the products currently advertised to children mean that they are being encouraged to ask for and to buy foods that can compromise their future health.

Recent research demonstrates that reducing children’s salt intake by half results in immediate falls in blood pressure, which in turn could lead to major reductions in the risk of developing stroke, heart attacks and heart failure later in life (ref 1).

A high salt diet in childhood predisposes an individual to a number of health problems including: high blood pressure (ref 2-7) which leads to increased risk of heart disease and stroke; osteoporosis (Ref 8); aggravated respiratory illness such as asthma (Ref 9-11) and stomach cancer (Ref 12). It is estimated that children from the age of 3-4 consume approximately 9-10g of salt/day . This is 3 times the recommended intake for children aged 4-6 years, approximately 2 times the guideline amount for children aged 7-10 years old, and 1.5 times the recommendation for children aged between 11-14 years (Ref 14).

A high salt diet also makes children thirsty, and more likely to drink calorific soft drinks, which in turn increases their likelihood of becoming obese.

An enormous loop-hole has been created by allowing companies such as McDonald’s to advertise their brand, even though they are prevented from advertising the vast majority of their products. Their brand is in many ways stronger than their individual products so replacing product promotion with brand promotion will result in little reduction of influence on children.

As a nation, we strive in many ways to protect our children from harm.  We must protect them from the damage that a high salt diet can cause to their health.”


1. F J He, G A MacGregor, Importance of Salt in Determining Blood Pressure in Children: Meta-analysis of controlled trials. Hypertension 2006; 48: 861-869. To view a full copy of the paper please click on the following link - salt and bp in children\salt_bp_children_hypertension2006.pdf

2. Hofman A, Hazebroek A, Valkenburg HA. A randomised trial of sodium intake and blood pressure in newborn infants. JAMA. 1983;250:370-3.

3. Persson LA. Dietary habits and health risks in Swedish children. Hum Nutr:Clin Nutr 1984;38C:287-97.

4. Ellison RC, Capper AL, Stephenson WP, Goldberg RJ, Hosmer DW, Humphrey KF, Ockene JK, Gamble WJ, Witschi JC, Stare FJ. Effects on blood pressure of a decrease in sodium use in institutional food preparation: the Exeter-Andover project. J Clin Epidemiol 1989; 42:201-8.

5. Geleijnse JM, Grobbee DE & Hofman A. Sodium and potassium intake and blood pressure change in childhood. BMJ 1990; 300:899-902.

6. Pomeranz A, Dolfin T,  Korzets Z,  Eliakim A,  Wolach B. Increased sodium concentrations in drinking water increases blood pressure in neonates. J  hypertension 2002; 20:203-207.

7. Pomeranz A, Korzets Z, Vanunu D, Krystal H, Wolach B. Elevated salt and nitrate levels in drinking water cause an increase of blood pressure in schoolchildren. Kidney Blood Press Res 2000; 23: 400-403.

8. Cappuccio FP, Kalaitzids R, Duneclift S & Eastwood JB. Unravelling the links between calcium excretion, salt intake, hypertension, kidney stones and bone metabolism. J Nephrol 2000; 13:169-77.

9. Burney PGJ. A diet rich in sodium may potentiate asthma: epidemiological evidence for a new hypotheses. Chest 1987; 91: 143S-148S.

10. Pistelli R, Forastiere F, Corbo GM, Dell'Orco V, Brancato G, Agabiti N, Pizzabiocca A, Perucci CA. Respiratory symptoms and bronchial responsiveness are related to dietary salt intake and urinary potassium excretion in male children. Eur Respir J 1993; 6: 517-522.

11. Antonis TFT, Macgregor GA. Salt-more adverse effects. Lancet 1996:348:250-251.

12. Joossens J V,  Hill M J,  Elliott P,  Stamler R,  Lesaffre E,  Dyer A,  Nichols R, Kesteloot H. Dietary salt, nitrate and stomach cancer mortality in 24 countries. European Cancer Prevention (ECP) and the INTERSALT Cooperative Research Group. Int J Epidemiol. 1996;25:494-504.

13. Gregory J, Lowe S, Bates CJ, Prentice A, Jackson L, Smithers G, Wenlock R, Farron M. National Diet and Nutrition Survey: Young People aged 4 to 18 years: Volume 1: Report of the diet and nutrition survey. 2000, The Stationery Office: London.

14. Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition. Salt and health. 2003, The Stationery Office: London. p. 49-55.