Junk food is a broad term that is used to describe a variety of food products from sweets that contain little to no nutritional value to products used in meals that may contain many essential nutrients but also utilize ingredients which are considered to be unhealthy when consumed on a regular basis, with some considered unhealthy to consume at all. The term is believed to have been coined by Michael Jacobson, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, in 1972. The term has since come into common usage.
Some characteristics which may cause certain foods to be considered Junk food are containing high levels of refined sugar, white flour, trans fat and saturated fat, salt, and various additives such as preservatives and coloring agents. Other characteristics include lacking in proteins, vitamins, fiber and other nutrients required for a healthy diet.
Many forms of Fast food are popular with suppliers because they are relatively inexpensive to manufacture and are particularly resistant to spoilage. These products may also be popular with consumers because they are easy to purchase, require little or no preparation, and are convenient to consume. The consumption of products considered junk food has been associated with many health problems including obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and dental cavities. There is also concern about the targeting of marketing to children.
Some types of chips/crisps that are said to be "junk food" may actually be partially harmful because they may contain saturated and trans fats. It should also be understood that the detrimental effects of the empty calories may outweigh the benefits of the unsaturated fats. These foods tend to be high in sodium, which may contribute in causing hypertension (high blood pressure) in people sensitive to its effects with an existing electrolyte imbalance or inability to excrete sodium properly.
In the United Kingdom, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) do not use the term "junk food", and describe food as "HFSS" (high fat, sugar or salt) instead, based on a nutrient profiling model. They state that "HFSS foods can form part of a balanced diet, but research shows that children's diets contain too much fat (especially saturated fat), salt and sugar, and not enough fruit and vegetables.
During 2006, in the United Kingdom, following a high profile media campaign by the chef Jamie Oliver and a threat of court action from the National Heart Forum, the UK advertising regulator and competition authority, Ofcom, launched a consultation on advertising of foods to children. The Food Standards Agency was one of many respondents. As a result, a ban on advertising during children's television programs and programs aimed at young people was announced. The ban also includes marketing using celebrities, cartoon characters and health or nutrition claims.