UK Bans All Junk Food Ads To Fight Obesity | advertising
Downing Street has announced plans to implement a complete ban on online junk food advertising – the toughest digital marketing restrictions in the world – to help address the growing obesity crisis.
While health activists have welcomed the proposed ban, which is now undergoing a six-week consultation, it stunned the advertising industry, which has labeled it indiscriminate and draconian.
The new rules, which go well beyond the summer proposals, would affect foods that are considered to be too fatty, salty and sugary. However, in addition to what is considered traditional “junk food”, a range of foods from avocados and marmite to jams and cream could be caught.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I am determined to help parents, children and families in the UK make healthier choices about their diet. We know kids spend more time online. Parents want to be sure that they are not exposed to advertisements for unhealthy foods that can affect their habits. “
The stricter than expected rules came after Boris Johnson changed his mind about personal health decisions following his coronavirus infection. Overweight people are at risk of more severe illness from Covid or death. Research has found that one in three children who drop out of elementary school is overweight or obese, as are nearly two-thirds of adults in England.
The consultation cited research showing that children were exposed to increased online advertising of junk food. The government estimates that children under the age of 16 were exposed to 15 billion junk food advertisements online in 2019, compared to an estimated 700 million two years earlier.
If implemented, the ban would affect digital marketing, from ads on Facebook to paid search results on Google, SMS advertising to social media activities on Twitter and Instagram.
“This would be a world-leading policy for improving children’s health,” said Fran Bernhardt, coordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign. “Online advertising has focused on unhealthy foods for far too long. Current regulations are insufficient to protect children. Companies promoting healthier food have nothing to fear. “
Violations of the new rules would be enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority, which has the power to ban ads that violate the UK Code. The government said if industry regulation fails or advertisers disregard the new rules, stricter legal sanctions would be put in place, such as “civil sanctions, including the ability to impose fines”.
The industry said the ban was “severe and disproportionate”. In a statement on behalf of the UK advertising industry, Stephen Woodford, Executive Director of the Advertising Association said: “If this outright ban policy continues, it will deal a heavy blow to UK advertising at a time when it is faltering from Covid-19.
“To borrow the Prime Minister’s language, this is not an ‘oven-ready’ policy, it is not even half-baked. But it has all the ingredients for a kick in the teeth for our industry from a government we believed was keen to prioritize economic growth alongside targeted interventions to support health and wellbeing. “