Soap bosses: We’re not making the nation unhealthy – we’re just reflecting modern life

Are EastEnders, Corrie, Emmerdale and Hollyoaks making the nation fat and lazy? No say producers - “unscientific” study is not showing “the complete picture”

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Soap opera chiefs have slammed suggestions that their shows promote unhealthy lifestyles and poor diets, saying their programmes “aim to reflect modern life” and comply with Ofcom guidelines.

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Their remarks come following the publication of a two-week study by Liverpool John Moores University Business School that looked at more than 830 scenes from our most popular continuing dramas and found that 72 per cent of the food consumed, or referred to, was unhealthy and that exercise was only shown or mentioned on four occasions.

The report cited long-serving Emmerdale character Eric Pollard (Christopher Chittell) as being Britain’s unhealthiest, with 62 per cent of his scenes said to feature him drinking during the daytime in the Woolpack, or at home, with a glass of red wine. According to findings, 79 per cent of all food-related scenes on Emmerdale feature unhealthy eating – news that might come as a surprise to loyal viewers who frequently see Nikhil Sharma (Rik Makarem) fretting over his exercise regime.

An official spokesperson for ITV said: “Emmerdale and Coronation Street aim to reflect modern life. Both programmes comply with the regulations set down by broadcaster regulator Ofcom.”

A source close to both shows also told RadioTimes.com: “It might be noted that surveys of this kind, undertaken over just a two-week period, only give a very brief snapshot and therefore aren’t fully representative of either soap.”

Over in Walford, Fat Boy’s peanut butter and jam sandwiches were singled out for opprobrium. But EastEnders told RadioTimes.com today:

“Our characters were clearly having a lazy two-week period during the study so we’ll remind them the importance of exercise and making healthy eating choices! The Queen Vic is central to EastEnders so there will be some level of alcohol consumption. However many of our characters undertake regular exercise.

“Not only did EastEnders have a football team, but Joey recently ran the London Marathon; Alice, Tamwar, AJ and Masood have undertaken self-defence classes, while Jack, Tyler and Joey are frequently seen in Walford’s boxing gym.”

Hollyoaks too failed to escape censure with Jacqui McQueen (Claire Cooper) branded the fourth worst-offending soap character, with alcohol being drunk in 30 per cent of her scenes and unhealthy eating in 17 per cent. However, a spokesperson at Channel 4 countered with:

“The Hollyoaks editorial team take a detailed and considered approach to drinking alcohol and healthy lifestyles. We act responsibly to ensure that we show, within the context of a storyline, the negative consequences of alcohol consumption – which is in accordance with guidelines set by Ofcom and in keeping with the tone of the show. There is a gym in the village and characters are often seen jogging, planning to or completing an exercise class or running on treadmills in the gym.”

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An insider at the show also revealed to RadioTimes.com that they felt the findings to be “unscientific”, with the two-week period in question during March 2013 not showing “the complete picture”.