Amidst the euphoria of the world cup, there is another story that grabbed my attention this morning, the ASA banning a series of ads from Cadbury, Chewits and Squashies. The bans affect ads placed on both TV and social media and represent the first under new rules aimed at reducing obesity in the UK.
This move must be applauded, we have, for too long, become a nation that does not understand the damage that modern, processed food can do to us and children can’t be blamed, it is natural instinct to like sweet foods, is it not?
However, whilst I pride myself on living a reasonably healthy lifestyle, I also believe in freedom of speech and this ruling does beg the question, are we dictating what companies can and cannot say?
I do not know the answer, but I suspect there will be many who will argue on both sides and this debate will continue for a long time yet. What I do believe is that the best way to solve these problems is through education and not just of the children, but of the adults as well. I recently heard an interview on Radio 2 where a mother said she couldn’t afford to buy fresh food and vegetables and it was cheaper for her to buy ready meals and fast food, that summed it all up to me.
I am involved in a social enterprise business, Empower to Cook, which teaches children and adults, including teachers, how to cook and how to use fresh food cheaply to eat well. They are getting more and more support from local schools and other organisations, but what I would like to see is the major food companies getting involved with them and other similar businesses. If everyone who is involved in food, from farmers, manufacturers, retailers, restaurants, schools and the health service all worked together, we would be able to teach everyone that from cradle to grave it is both cheaper and healthier to eat fresh food and surprisingly, it can be quicker to cook as well.
Remember, if we eat well for the majority of the time we can still enjoy the treats in life, I love cake, I love biscuits and most of all I love bread, but I only eat them as treats. So perhaps rather than the ASA just banning ads, they could become a catalyst to start the food companies working with other organisations to educate the population. Bans don’t work as a stand-alone approach, we need more collaboration and education to make it work in the long term.