Government announces pre-watershed ban on TV 'junk food' adverts

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Government announces pre-watershed ban on TV 'junk food' adverts

Related tags Advertising Government

The Government has confirmed it is to introduce a pre-watershed ban on TV adverts for foods high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS), and also tighten restrictions on online advertising.

Set to come into force at the end of next year, the restrictions are aimed at helping to tackle childhood obesity and will apply to all businesses with 250 or more employees that make and/or sell HFSS products.

The new rules will apply to TV and UK on-demand programmes, with HFSS adverts only able to be broadcast between 9pm to 5.30am.

Following a public consultation, it has been decided that online restrictions will be limited to paid-for advertising, rather than the total ban originally mooted last year​, meaning companies can continue to promote goods using their own blogs, websites, apps or social media pages.

Small and medium businesses will be exempt from the new rules, with the Government saying it 'recognises these companies may be some of the hardest hit by the pandemic and rely on online media as the sole way to communicate with their customers'.

"We are committed to improving the health of our children and tackling obesity," says Public Health Minister, Jo Churchill.

"The content youngsters see can have an impact on the choices they make and habits they form. With children spending more time online it is vital we act to protect them from unhealthy advertising.

"These measures form another key part of our strategy to get the nation fitter and healthier by giving them the chance to make more informed decisions when it comes to food.

"We need to take urgent action to level up health inequalities. This action on advertising will help to wipe billions off the national calorie count and give our children a fair chance of a healthy lifestyle."

The Government's decision to exempt small and medium-sized businesses has been welcomed by the sector, however, there remain warnings that hospitality business will face considerable restraints as a result of the legislation.

“It’s positive that the Government has heeded many of the sector’s concerns, such as exempting smaller businesses and limiting the scope to paid-for advertising," says Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UKHospitality.

"Such concessions are appreciated at a time when hospitality is trying to get back on its feet following the huge impacts of the pandemic.

“There is still plenty in [this] announcement that will impose considerable constraints, though, with little discernible evidence of them making a positive difference on obesity.

"Furthermore, there appears to be little flexibility for future redress of these measures, should they prove to be ineffective.”

As part of its strategy to tackle obesity, the Government is also set to introduce mandatory calorie labelling on menus​ for business with over 250 employees from April next year.

Earlier this week, UKHospitality called on the Government to delay its plans​, stating that the additional cost could derail hospitality’s recovery from the pandemic.

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