TfL amends HFSS advertising rules

AA says changes show one-size-fits-all approach does not work for HFSS ad restrictions.

Farmdrop: rule changes grant flexibility over small amounts of HFSS products in fresh-foods ads
Farmdrop: rule changes grant flexibility over small amounts of HFSS products in fresh-foods ads

Transport for London’s decision to change six out of its 10 rules of advertising for foods high in fat, salt or sugar shows a one-size-fits-all ban does not work in practice, the Advertising Association has claimed.

The capital’s public-transport operator has issued new guidance to advertisers in response to confusion about what is now acceptable to advertise.

One of the changes is that HFSS products may now be "incidentally" featured in advertising if the ad is not promoting that product explicitly.

Confusion over this issue was laid bare in March when TfL banned a poster for Farmdrop, a fresh-produce delivery company, because it showed bacon, eggs and butter among a spread of fruit and vegetables.

Another change will reportedly force advertisers to be clear about portion sizes, such as specifying that a serving should be for a family or number of persons.

Stephen Woodford, chief executive of the AA, said: "Six out of 10 rules have had to be changed, showing a blanket ‘one size fits all’ ban on HFSS advertising simply does not work in practice. These revisions cause additional confusion for industry, which is striving to comply with a poorly thought out and rushed policy.

"A number of the issues now rectified were pointed out by industry in the consultation period and could have been avoided had the mayor of London accepted the offer from the UK advertising industry, particularly its out-of-home advertising sector, to work together on this issue."

When the ban came into force on 25 February, the AA had warned that TfL's regulation was "complicated' for advertisers.

The restrctions, which cover all of TfL’s estate, including the London Underground, the bus network and taxis, is aimed at curbing childhood obesity.

A TfL spokesperson said today: "The recent updates to our guidelines simply reflect how we continue to positively work with brands to review, clarify and evolve the guidelines to help ensure healthier food options are advertised on our network. Many brands have and continue to work to successfully comply with our policy and it is wrong to suggest that there is any confusion about its implementation."

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