Fat and sugar ban in children’s advertising

By Editor
8th December 2016
Latest news

The promotion of high fat, salt or sugar will be banned in children’s advertising, it has been announced today.

Tough new rules banning the advertising of high fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) food or drink products in children’s media will come into effect on July 1, 2017, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has said.

The rules, which will apply in media targeted at under-16s, will apply across all non-broadcast media including in print, cinema and, crucially, online and in social media. It follows a comprehensive public consultation.

The move is designed to help protect the health and wellbeing of children.

In summary:

  • 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 per cent 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

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.

Childhood obesity is a serious and complex issue and one that we’re determined to play our part in tackling

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.

CAP’s review and the new rules come in response to wider concerns in society about childhood obesity and the public health challenges it poses. The new rules also respond to shifting media habits amongst young people and evolving advertising techniques which have fundamentally changed children’s relationship with media and advertising.

‘Meaningful role’

Research from Ofcom shows that young people aged 5-15 are spending around 15 hours each week online – overtaking time spent watching a TV set for the first time.

While there are many factors that have an impact on childhood obesity, and available evidence shows that the effect of advertising on children’s food preferences is relatively small, particularly when compared to other factors like parental influences; CAP believes that even a very small positive impact from these new ad restrictions could play a meaningful role in reducing potential harms to children.

Chairman of CAP James Best said: “Childhood obesity is a serious and complex issue and one that we’re determined to play our part in tackling. These restrictions will significantly reduce the number of ads for high, fat, salt or sugar products seen by children. Our tough new rules are a clear demonstration that the ad industry is willing and ready to act on its responsibilities and puts the protection of children at the heart of its work.”

The Obesity Health Alliance, a coalition of more than 30 leading charities, including Diabetes UK, Royal Medical Colleges and campaign groups, said: “We welcome CAP’s long awaited rules to protect children from junk food marketing across all types of media and are pleased to see them recognise that restrictions should apply to kids up to the age of 16. But it’s concerning that the new restrictions only apply when it can be shown that at least 25% of the audience are children. This loophole means that a significant number of children could still be exposed to adverts for high fat, salt and sugary products.

“But it’s concerning that the new restrictions only apply when it can be shown that at least 25% of the audience are children. This loophole means that a significant number of children could still be exposed to adverts for high fat, salt and sugary products.

“Children aged 5-15 spend up to 15 hours a week online – so it’s absolutely right that they’re protected from junk food marketing. Research shows advertising greatly influences the food children choose to eat, and with one third of children overweight or obese by their eleventh birthday, we need to protect them from relentless junk food marketing in all walks of life.”

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