The following letter was sent to The Times in response to an op-ed by an employee of the Adam Smith Institute ‘Think Tank’ on 16th December.

Dear Sir,

Morgan Schondelmeier’s article for Times Red Box (Obesity: online ban for high-fat foods is not the answer – 16th December) conveniently ignores the truth about junk food marketing – namely that our children see over 15 billion online adverts for foods high in fat, sugar and salt every year.

These adverts are much more likely to be promoting large multi-national food brands than social media posts for local honey. According to Internet Advertising Bureau research, fewer than one in five smaller businesses have used online display advertising in the past year.

The evidence is clear. This torrent of advertising influences what we eat, making junk food advertising a key contributor to diet related poor health. After a year in which widespread obesity made the experience of COVID-19 so much worse for so many, we need to face up to the problems created by treating children as a source of profit, whatever the consequences to their health. That’s why, as health leaders, we fully endorse ending unhealthy food advertising of all kinds.

Yours faithfully

Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK; Professor Rachel Batterham, Royal College of Physicians; Professor Dame Parveen Kumar, British Medical Association; John Maingay, British Heart Foundation; Bridget Turner, Diabetes UK; Professor Simon Capewell, Faculty of Public Health; Dr Max Davie, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health; Ben Reynolds, Sustain; Caroline Cerny; Obesity Health Alliance