CAP reviews rules on advertising junk food to children as obesity rates continue to rise

The Advertising Association has welcomed moves by the Committees of Advertising Practice to reconsider whether restrictions on the advertising of high fat, salt and sugar products go far enough.

Cadbury: chocolate brands would be affected by any revision of HFSS rules
Cadbury: chocolate brands would be affected by any revision of HFSS rules

The body, which writes the UK’s two codes of practice for advertising, has called for evidence on TV food advertising to children, and announced a review of non-broadcast rules.

The non-broadcast rules, which came into force last July, ban advertising for HFSS in media aimed at children, or where they make up at least 25% of the audience.

It brought channels including social media, magazines and billboards into line with TV, where HFSS product advertising in programming aimed at children has been banned since 2007.

CAP said that children’s exposure to all food and soft drink ads had fallen by 40% since 2010 – and said it was "widely acknowledged that factors other than advertising are the main influences on our children’s waistlines including socio-economic circumstances, parental choices, school policies, sedentary pastimes, levels of understanding about nutrition and the availability of HFSS products."

But it said that with childhood obesity rates continuing to rise in the UK, it was right to ensure the rules were still in the right place.

CAP’s call for evidence on TV advertising closes on 16 May. It will evaluate the evidence and publish an analysis in the autumn. It will begin a review of the non-broadcast rules on 1 July, a year after the new rules came into force, with findings also published in the autumn.

MPs called earlier this year for a ban on all HFSS TV advertising before the 9pm watershed - a move that Labour pledged to make before last year's general election.

A year ago, spokesmen for advertising industry bodies expressed resistance to any new restrictions.

But Stephen Woodford, chief executive of the Advertising Association, today welcomed the CAP's moves.

He said: "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.

"Our industry remains committed to meeting the highly complex issues around childhood obesity."

Shahriar Coupal, director of the Committees, said the initiatives "signal our clear commitment to make sure the rules continue to protect children. It’s important our rules reflect and remain fit for children’s multimedia lives."

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