Junk food ad-ban in new childhood obesity proposals
Further restrictions on junk food and drink advertising are being considered as part of government plans to halve childhood obesity by 2030.
New measures announced by health and social secretary Jeremy Hunt also target supermarkets and restaurants, with proposals including a ban on unhealthy snacks at checkouts, mandatory calorie labelling in restaurants, and banning the sale of energy drinks to children.
Of concern to adland, however, is the government's call on the industry to recognise the harm adverts for food high in fat, sugar and salt can cause.
The government will consult on the introduction of new TV and online advertising restrictions to prevent advertisers targeting children with unhealthy products.
In consideration is an extension to the current advertising watershed, plus limitations on the number of HFSS food and drink adverts shown during children's programmes up to 9pm.
"It is near impossible to shield children from exposure to unhealthy foods. Parents are asking for help," said Hunt.
"It’s our job to give power to parents to make healthier choices, and to make their life easier in doing so."
Meanwhile, according to Stephen Woodford, chief executive at the Advertising Association, UK advertising rules are already some of the strictest in the world, with high fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) advertising banned across all media where under-16s make up more than 25% of the audience.
"All of these measures mean that there have been dramatic falls over the last decade in the exposure of under-16s to HFSS advertising," he said.
The advertising industry is "always ready" to support "evidence-based and proportionate action" if it will have a positive and measureable impact on people's lives, Woodfood continued.
However, research shows that advertising bans have little impact on the complex factors that cause obesity, he said.
"Here in the UK, interventions such as The Daily Mile in schools have been successful as they are simple, cost-free and inclusive and not only impact on obesity level, but improve behaviour, academic performance and children's wellbeing.
"This is exactly the sort of partnership needed to tackle Britain's obesity challenge and we look forward to engaging further with Government on this hugely important issue."
Similarly, ISBA opposes the introduction of a 9pm watershed and has stressed the importance of reaching a simple, evidence-led outcome.
"It is vital that government recognise the steps already taken in this area and balance the ability of advertisers to communicate products to adult audiences with the need to address the issue of childhood obesity," said James Barge, director of public affairs at ISBA.
"Of course any proposals should be justified with clear targets and independently assessed to assure government, industry and the public of their efficacy over time."