The advertising industry is gearing up for a battle with the
Government over the remit of its planned Food Standards Agency.
The Advertising Association is worried that the watchdog will be
hijacked by pressure groups and will run ’healthy eating’ campaigns
advising the public to avoid certain food products.
The AA is concerned the agency could intervene over the content of food
ads, placing advertisers under even tighter constraints because their
campaigns are already controlled by the Advertising Standards Authority,
Independent Television Commission and Radio Authority.
However, the minister for food safety, Jeff Rooker, told a meeting of
the AA’s Food Advertising Committee that the new agency would not be
allowed to regulate ads, and AA leaders this week welcomed Rooker’s
’clear and unequivocal statement’.
However, the association remains concerned that the new watchdog may
demand curbs on advertising. Its chief architect, Professor Philip James
of the Rowett Research Institute, has called for a ban on food ads and
is tipped to head the agency.
The AA is warning the Government that, just as the agency must be
independent from the food industry, it must also avoid ’adopting
wholesale the agendas of a variety of pressure groups’.
AA leaders told Rooker that ’healthy eating’ campaigns should be left to
the Health Education Authority and Department of Health.
’It is not the job of commercial advertisers to tell people how to live
their lives or how to balance their diets,’ Sara Price, the AA’s head of
public affairs, said. ’It is the function of advertising to promote a
brand. Commercial advertising is not a tool for social policy or social
engineering, it is a tool for competition in a very competitive market.’