Film celebrities should refrain from endorsing junk food, says a paper published in the British Medical Journal. However, it said celebrity endorsement cannot be banned.
Holding junk food responsible for the growing obesity among children, author of the paper and public health researcher Chris Baker said: “Aspirational advertising is omnipresent in India and succeeds in creating an appetite for junk food.”
The paper said: "Household names from films and cricket are frequently employed to attach sheen of glamour and success to cheap foodstuffs high in fat, sugar or salt, but low in minerals and vitamins."
Childhood obesity is one of the emerging epidemics and a public health challenge. According to World Health Organisation (WHO), about 44% of diabetes and 23% of the cardiovascular disease (CVD) burden is attributed to overweight and obesity. Overweight children are more likely to develop insulin resistance, diabetes and CVD at a younger age.
“If the menace of sugar, sweets and beverages can be contained, then we would be able to check obesity and diabetes. Apart from hiking taxes as a control measure, I stand for celebrities disowning junk and processed food products,” said Dr Anoop Misra, chairman for diabetes and metabolic diseases at Fortis C-Doc Hospital, Delhi.
Admen and psychologists said that while celebrity endorsement does give an edge to the product, advertisement is not the sole determining factor for a product’s wider consumption. “If a product is unhealthy, it won’t turn healthy after a celebrity endorses it,” said adman Prasoon Pandey, director of Corcoise Films.
Human behaviour experts said lifestyle changes are needed to wean people off junk food.
“High and empty calorie food for instant energy has to be avoided,” said Dr Cicilia Chettiar, psychologist.
Baker’s paper said several countries have moved to restrict children’s exposure to marketing on television, print and in new media formats such as mobile advertising and interactive gaming. “While such regulation is still being debated in India, we are left with less stringent, non-binding corporate pledges such as those drafted by the International Food and Beverage Alliance. They make no reference to celebrity endorsement," said the paper.