Food industry slams UK ad ban

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Advertising

The UK food industry has criticised the country's advertising
watchdog decision to extend food ad restrictions to young people.

"We are disappointed that Ofcom has decided to extend the restrictions on advertising to cover young people,"​ said FDF (food and drink federation) director general Melanie Leech. "This is a disproportionate response given that the issue has always been about young children – and industry responded to Ofcom's initial consultation on that basis."​ The FDF response comes after Ofcom published its final statement on the television advertising of food and drink products to children. Ofcom's statement follows the conclusion of its additional consultation. This proposed to extend restrictions on the television advertising of food and drink products high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) to include programmes and channels aimed at children aged under 16. "Ofcom has considered all responses to this consultation carefully,"​ said the watchdog in a statement yesterday. "After a detailed analysis of the evidence, including a full impact assessment, Ofcom has concluded it is appropriate and necessary to adopt restrictions intended to reduce significantly the exposure of children under 16 to HFSS advertising." ​ The announcement left a bitter-sweet taste in the mouths of campaign groups, with many having urged Ofcom to go further. Consumer group Which? for example has consistently called for a total ban on the advertising of unhealthy foods in the UK before the 9PM watershed. In a recent report, the group claimed that current measures to restrict television advertising​ for unhealthy foods towards children in the UK were not effective enough. "Which? believes that a 9pm watershed is the only way to ensure that the restrictions are meaningful. If Ofcom​ cannot re-think its approach in the face of industry pressure, the Government needs to step in and legislate,"​ said the group's chief policy advisor, Sue Davies. By extending a ban to include programmes and channels aimed at children aged under 16, the Ofcom proposal could at least go some way to reducing the effects of adverts. But the FDF questioned whether this was necessary. "Ofcom notes TV advertising has a modest, direct effect on children's food choices and is only one among many influences,"​ said Leech. "So today's decision will not, by itself, reduce childhood obesity; there are no silver bullets that can be fired at this particular problem. The food and drink industry remains committed to playing its part, working with government and others, to deliver a lasting solution to the complex issue of obesity." ​ The FDF said that it was also concerned that regulations continue to be based on a "scientifically flawed nutrient profiling model that has rightly come under fire from the media, MPs and nutritionists."​ The scheduling restrictions will now come into effect on a phased basis for all channels. As of 1 April 2007, HFSS advertisements will not be permitted in or around programmes made for children (including pre-school children), or in or around programmes that are likely to be of particular appeal to children aged four to nine. From 1 January 2008, HFSS advertisements will not be permitted in or around programmes made for children (including pre-school children), or in or around programmes that are likely to be of particular appeal to children aged four to 15. Children's channels will be allowed a graduated phase-in period, with full implementation required by the end of December 2008. Ofcom's co-regulatory partners, the Broadcast Committee on Advertising Practice (BCAP) and the Advertising Standards Authority, are now responsible for implementing the new scheduling and content rules and securing compliance respectively. The new rules will form part of the BCAP Television Advertising Standards Code.

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