Food and drink industry facing new ad rules as regulator launches inquiry into junk food

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) is to investigate whether it needs to introduce new rules around advertising soft drinks and food high in fat, salt or sugar to children, a move welcomed by charities and the food and drink industry.

Current rules by the ASA state that food and soft drink ads must not promote poor nutritional habits or an unhealthy lifestyle in children. Celebrities and licensed characters are also banned and ads must not encourage “pester power”.

However, in light of the recent wave of negative publicity around sugary products, changes in children’s media habits and evolving advertising techniques, CAP will ask a broad range of stakeholders whether a change of approach is needed.

The review will look at whether new rules are required for non-broadcast media. CAP will begin a programme of pre-consultation with a variety of consumer, campaigning, public health and industry organisations before launching a public consultation in early 2016.

Ian Wright, director general of the Food and Drink Federation has welcomed the move.

“We welcome CAP’s commitment to consult widely on bringing consistency to the rules around food advertising to children. Existing food advertising rules in the UK are strict and adhered to. Given the pace of change in the digital world in particular, it is sensible to keep advertising rules under review so they remain fit for purpose,” he says.

However the British Heart Foundation says the review does not go far enough.
“The current rules are weak, vague and inconsistent and do not protect children from aggressive marketing of unhealthy products,” says the charity.

“But a focus on non-broadcast marketing is not enough. An introduction of a 9pm watershed ban on junk food ads during family shows such as X Factor, which are not classed as children’s programming, would go a long way to protecting children.”

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