The ad industry is reviewing the rules around how junk food is advertised on TV and in non-broadcast media as it looks to ensure it is supporting wider efforts to tackle childhood obesity.
The Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) is calling for evidence over the impact of high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) products in TV advertising. It is also reviewing the stricter rules around non-broadcast advertising, introduced last year.
In July 2017, the Advertising Standards Authority introduced tougher rules on how HFSS food and drink companies targeted under-16s online. The restrictions mirrored guidelines for television and crucially meant that HFFS products could not be advertised on video-sharing platforms such as YouTube, if the content is directed at children.
CAP says the two reviews will ensure that advertisers are building on previous rules and that those rules continue to be effective. It says it wants to establish whether TV guidelines, brought in over a decade ago, are still constructive and that the newer online rules are working.
Shahriar Coupal, director of the committees for CAP, says: “These two initiatives signal our clear commitment to make sure the rules continue to protect children and achieve our aim of reducing children’s exposure to ads for less healthy food and soft drinks.”
The Advertising Association (AA) has welcomed CAP’s review. Stephen Woodford, chief executive of the AA, says: “While the UK already has some of the toughest advertising regulations in the world, as media consumption patterns change we need to ensure these remain fit for purpose, so we welcome the announcement from CAP.”
This sentiment is echoed by the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), which adds: “FDF welcomes CAP’s call for evidence around the impact of HFSS food and drink advertising to children. As an industry, we support policy based upon the latest and most compelling evidence.
“FDF and its members have in recent years demonstrated their commitment to tackling obesity. Large amounts of salt, fat and sugar have voluntarily been removed from product recipes, many portion sizes have been limited or reduced and many new healthier products have been developed and marketed. These commitments will continue as we rise to the challenge of the latest government targets on calorie reduction.”
CAP says that children’s exposure to HFSS ads on TV has reduced significantly, with exposure to food and soft drink TV ads 40% lower now than it was in 2010.
Despite this, childhood obesity has continued to rise. In December 2017, University College London found that 25% of children were overweight or obese at age seven, rising to 35% at age 11. And there have been growing calls for tighter regulation of junk food ads, particularly around family shows such as The X Factor.
The call for evidence closes on 16 May 2018, with plans to publish analysis of the responses in the autumn. CAP will review non-broadcast junk food ad rules from 1 July 2018, with findings published in the autumn.