Stricter rules on advertising food to children are starting

ASA advertising food fat high salt sugar
New regulations on ads targeting under 16s
03/07/2017 - 07:00
Tough new rules banning the advertising of high fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) food or drink products in children’s media came into force on July 1, according to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The rules will apply across all non-broadcast media including print and cinema, as well as online and in social media.

The rules will apply in media targeted at under-16s, and here's what they include:

* Ads that directly or indirectly promote an HFSS product cannot appear in children’s media.

* Ads for HFSS products cannot appear in other media where children make up over 25% of the audience.

* Ads for HFSS products will not be allowed to use promotions, licensed characters and celebrities popular with children; advertisers may now use those techniques to better promote healthier options.

The Department of Health nutrient profiling model will be used to classify which products are HFSS, with a spokesman saying: “These significant changes have been designed to help protect the health and wellbeing of children.”

However, Hilary Ross, executive partner and head of retail, food and hospitality at law firm DWF, said: “With very little evidence directly linking advertising to the wider obesity problem, or even suggesting that children’s exposure to non-broadcast advertising has any effect on their immediate food preferences, the new rules call into question the Committee of Advertising Practice’s commitment to an evidence-based approach to policy-making.

“My concern is that the new rules will be the cherry on top of the already onerous regulatory restrictions that are choking the food industry. And, even though food companies will be prepared for the new rules as they come into force, the criteria for complying is set to change imminently following Public Health England’s review of the nutrient profiling model used to classify which products fall within the remit of these new rules.

“This will deliver another blow as companies are forced to revise – again – their product formulations and advertising strategies.

“And, while the new rules might make a small dent in the obesity problem, this ‘sticking plaster’ tactic risks clouding over the real issue, which requires a holistic approach addressing the role of diet in the context of exercise and lifestyle.”

“Finally, it is misleading to suggest that certain foods are unhealthy and should never be consumed by children. In fact, legally, food can only be placed on the market if it is safe to consume and its fat, sugar and salt content is advertised truthfully.”

A spokesman for the ASA said: “Bringing the non-broadcast advertising rules in line with the TV rules, the new restrictions will lead to a major reduction in the number of ads for HFSS food and drinks seen by children.

“And it will also mean ads for HFSS products will no longer be allowed to appear around TV-like content online, such as on video-sharing platforms or ‘advergames’, if they are directed at or likely to appeal particularly to children.”

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