Ministers north of the border have demanded that the current broadcasting restrictions that stop products high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) being advertised during children’s shows be extended to all programmes aired before 9pm.
The Scottish Public Health Ministry is calling on the UK government to introduce the ban but will press ahead in Scotland if health secretary Andrew Lansley refuses to move.
A UK ban is unlikely, however. A spokesman told the Daily Record that existing rules were “were proportionate and balanced”.
Lansley has opted for a partnership approach rather than statutory regulation and is trying to broker deals with food brands to persuade them to reformulate foods and promote healthier lifestyles through its “responsibility deal”.
Michael Matheson, Scottish Public Health Minister, says that “loop holes” exist that allow brands like McDonald’s and KFC to advertise during pre-watershed shows popular with children but not made for them, such as X-Factor.
He adds: “Broadcast advertising influences the choices made by children and can shape their attitudes to food as they grow into adulthood.
“Tackling obesity and encouraging people to make healthier life choices is one of the most important things we can do to improve the health of our nation.”
The advertising industry slammed the proposals. A spokesman for the advertising industry says: “These calls for bans ignore the academic evidence and create more heat than light in such an important debate. The advertising industry, meanwhile, is getting on with constructive changes to the volume, visibility and content of food ads and more than playing its part in driving real change.”
The Scottish Labour Party joined calls for the ruling Scottish National Party to rethink its plans, accusing it of “picking a fight” with Westminster.
This position puts it at odds with Labour Party policy in the UK. Dianne Abbott, Labour’s public health spokeswoman has also called for a total ban on advertising of HFSS foods before 9pm.