Government set to 'announce ban on junk food advertising before 9pm’

24 July 2020, 09:58

The government looks set to ban junk food advertising before 9pm
The government looks set to ban junk food advertising before 9pm. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Boris Johnson is expected to announce restrictions on how unhealthy foods are sold in Britain in a bid to tackle high levels of obesity.

The new government plans are thought to include a ban on online and pre-watershed TV advertising of junk food as well as restrictions on supermarket promotions.

Executives have told the Financial Times that the proposed rules are also likely to include the introduction of compulsory calorie counts on restaurant and takeaway menus.

However, exact details are still being discussed by ministers and debate is ongoing over precise measures.

Boris Johnson is said to be spearheading the plans following his own coronavirus health scare.

The Prime Minister previously criticised the sugar tax, labelling it a “sin stealth tax”, however he is said to have since changed his mind.

He is said to blame his own weight issues for contributing to his illness and obesity has been identified as a key factor in whether people are seriously affected by coronavirus.

Last month, Mr Johnson said that the UK will be “happier, fitter and more resistant to diseases like Covid if we can tackle obesity”

Boris Johnson previously called the sugar tax a "sin stealth tax" but is said to have changed his mind
Boris Johnson previously called the sugar tax a "sin stealth tax" but is said to have changed his mind. Picture: PA

This is not the first time media companies have faced the prospect of advertising bans by the government, but each time plans have been abandoned.

Previous reviews of UK regulations have resulted in a tightening of restrictions over the years.

In 2007, advertisers were banned from running junk food ads in children's programmes or shows with average audiences of more than 20% children.

More recently, new online marketing rules stop advertisers from targeting children.

TV broadcasters have said in the past that a pre-watershed ban would cost them more than £200m in revenues annually.

Phil Smith, the director general of ISBA, which represents the vast majority of major advertisers in the UK said: “Brands have partnered effectively with government over the lockdown period to support, develop and amplify public health campaigns as well as safeguard and support employees.

“Just as business begins to chart a course back from the severe impacts of Covid-19, such an ill-thought-out policy cuts across Treasury efforts to support the sector and risks jobs and livelihoods.”

Stephen Woodford, the chief executive of the Advertising Association, said: “Speculation that the government intends to introduce bans on high fat, salt and sugar advertising would be in direct conflict with its own evidence that such restrictions would have a minimal impact on obesity levels.”

“These measures, if introduced, would have significant economic impact at a time when the economy is already under strain. The government must reconsider any proposals which could damage the recovery.”