In a bid to reduce obesity across the nation, the UK Government has unveiled plans to implement a total ban on online junk food advertising.
The new regulations, which are currently in consultation, would be among the strictest in the world and have been hailed by health campaigners but criticised by the advertising industry, who suggest the move is a draconian measure.
The new rules go much further than proposals in the summer, and affect foods high in fat, salt and sugar. However, a range of foods, from avocados and marmite to jam and cream, could be caught alongside what is viewed as traditional “junk food” according to the Guardian.
Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said: “I am determined to help parents, children and families in the UK make healthier choices about what they eat. We know children spend more time online. Parents want to be reassured they are not being exposed to adverts promoting unhealthy foods, which can affect habits for life.”
“This would be a world-leading policy to improve children’s health,” said Fran Bernhardt, coordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign. “Online adverts have cast unhealthy food in the starring role for far too long. The current regulations are inadequate to protect children. Companies advertising healthier foods have nothing to fear.”
The industry said the ban was “severe and disproportionate”. In a statement on behalf of the UK advertising industry, Stephen Woodford, chief executive of the Advertising Association, said: “If this policy of an outright ban goes ahead, it will deal a huge blow to UK advertising at a time where it is reeling from the impact of Covid-19.
“To borrow the prime minister’s language, this is not an ‘oven ready’ policy, it is not even half-baked. But it does have all the ingredients of a kick in the teeth for our industry from a government which we believed was interested in prioritising economic growth, alongside targeted interventions to support health and wellbeing.”