Government launches consultation for restrictions on junk food ads

19/03/2019 - 06:00
A consultation has been launched about restrictions on adverts for food high in fat, sugar and salt by the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.

They are asking for the public’s views on ways to reduce the number of junk food adverts as a way to tackle childhood obesity.

Steve Brine, public health minister, said: “It is not right that our children are so widely and easily exposed to adverts promoting foods high in fat, sugar and salt. Small amounts of excess calories every day over a long time causes obesity and all the associated health concerns. We are, however, clear: there is no one solution, so our world-leading plan is about joined-up action across a range of areas so we tackle childhood obesity from every possible angle.

The NHS is already preparing to treat more and more children for the serious effects of extreme obesity in the future – so we have a duty to address the underlying causes because we believe passionately in our NHS. This isn’t about banning everyday staples like butter and olive oil. It’s about reducing children’s exposure to those products that have little nutritional value but that are part of a wider climate that is driving childhood obesity.

The restrictions being considered include a 9pm watershed ban on TV, online streaming sites and social media.

As part of the consultation, the government will consider the impact that further advertising the restrictions may have on business, particularly broadcasters.

However, industry trade body, UKHospitality, has warned that the restrictions will harm the sector.

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Hospitality shares the Government’s objectives and public concerns about nurturing healthier attitudes to food and drink. The sector has worked proactively with local authorities and Westminster to help tackle obesity. Many of our members have spent time and money reformulating menus, diversifying their offer and providing nutritional transparency.

“British high streets have been hit hard in recent years, by a mix of rising costs and changing consumer trends and, of course, Brexit uncertainties. Hospitality venues are vital the social lives of towns and cities and provide huge economic benefits. Preventing them from advertising would undermine high streets further.”

The departments said that data showed that adverts for sugary and fatty foods are more commonly shown than any other category.

In 2017, it is estimated that children were exposed to more than 700 million online adverts for foods high in fat, sugar or salt and almost 3.6 billion TV adverts.

Tim Rycroft, FDF chief operating officer, said: “This, like the announcement on promotional restrictions in January, is insulting. It, again, suggests that the Department of Health and Social Care has failed to notice that the UK is still not out of the Brexit logjam, nor that food and drink companies are battling to ensure the nation is fed.

“Until a delay to the 29 March withdrawal date is agreed by the UK and EU, and Parliament removes that date from the Withdrawal Act, manufacturers will have a total focus on averting the catastrophe of a no-deal Brexit, avoiding food shortages and keeping prices rises to a minimum.  DEFRA has advised us that no-deal planning must take precedence over other matters.

“These are serious and important matters; but the consultation has already been delayed by two months. It could and should have been delayed until a no-deal Brexit was completely out of the question. Unless there is a material change to Brexit prospects, FDF will not be responding.”

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