Most Campaign readers oppose HFSS ad restrictions, survey shows

Only measures supported by majority are calorie labelling in restaurants and on alcohol.

McDonald's and Cadbury: Campaign readers happy for them to stay on TV before 9pm
McDonald's and Cadbury: Campaign readers happy for them to stay on TV before 9pm

Adland is divided over the government’s proposed crackdown on food high in fat, salt or sugar, but the majority are behind the Advertising Association, ISBA and the IPA in rejecting plans for new advertising restrictions, a Campaign survey shows.

Six in 10 (60.6%) registered users who responded to the poll on the Campaign website said they did not support any of the three proposed restrictions on advertising for HFSS products: a ban on TV ads before 9pm, a ban on internet ads before 9pm and a total ban on internet ads. 

Of the remaining respondents, just under a third (32%) said they supported the pre-9pm TV ban and slightly more (33%) would get behind new internet advertising restrictions, either before 9pm or at all times of the day. 

Around half of this number (15.7%) said they supported a total ban on internet ads for HFSS food and drink – a move that is not yet government policy but which it plans to hold a consultation on.

There was also little support for a ban on sales promotions such as “buy one get one free”, with only 28.2% of participants behind this.

But two further proposals do win support from the majority of Campaign readers. Six in 10 supported mandatory calorie labelling both on the menus of large restaurant chains (61.1%) and on alcohol packaging (59.8%).

Calorie information on menus perhaps commands the greatest support because it is seen as a small imposition on businesses that would enable greater consumer awareness and choice. But it is also not without controversy; the move has been criticised by campaigners for the potentially harmful impact it could have on people with eating disorders. 

The policies, revealed at the end of July alongside the new Public Health England campaign “Better health”, have been welcomed by health-campaign groups but strongly criticised by trade organisations for their potential to damage both small food and drink companies and media owners, while – according to critics – having little impact on children’s calorie consumption.

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