ad ban comes into force in UK
By Jess Halliday
Stage one of
controversial new restrictions on advertising of foods
to children came into force in the UK yesterday after
much heated debate; the FSA will review the impact of
its nutrient profiling model in 12 months.
UK regulators and the food and advertising industries
have hotly debated the issue of how much TV advertising
is to blame for the current obesity crisis and whether
ad restrictions are an appropriate way to curb it.
Critics claim it is far too stringent, and that food
advertising is only one of many measures to address the
obesity rates in the UK.
Presently 80 per cent of spending of food advertising
within children's airtime is for foods high in fat, salt
and sugar (HFSS) - the term the FSA prefers to 'junk
food'; and around a third of two to 15-year-olds in the
UK are overweight or obese.
As agreed in October 2005, the FSA will review the
impact of the measure in 12 months' time. A spokesperson
told FoodNavigator.com that the review will investigate
how the nutrient profiling model, under which foods that
may be advertised are determined, works in practice.
"The review will consider changes in foods advertised to
children and the views of all interested parties," she
But in the meantime, as of yesterday, advertisements for
HFSS foods will not be permitted in or around programmes
made for children (including pre-school children), or in
or around programmes that are likely to be of particular
appeal to children aged four to nine.
The regulation is being introduced in several stages.
From 1 January 2008, HFSS advertisements will not be
permitted in or around programmes made for children
(including pre-school children), or in or around
programmes that are likely to be of particular appeal to
children aged four to 15.
Children's channels will be allowed a graduated phase-in
period, with full implementation required by the end of
The move was originally conceived by advertising
regulator Ofcom to restrict advertising around
programmes of specific interest to the under-9s, and the
extended to young people up to the age of 16 years has
been a particular bone of contention.
Melanie Leech, director general of the Food and Drink
Federation (FDF) called the extension "over the top" and
said Ofcom had "moved the goalposts". She said last
November that the restrictions were likely to intrude
into the evening schedule and be a curb on adult
Foods that can be advertised in and around children's
programmes are determined by a nutrient profiling model
that uses a scoring system to balance beneficial
nutrients like protein, fibre, fruit, vegetables and
nuts, against components children should eat less off -
namely energy, saturated fats, salt and sugar.
"During development, the model was tested against 300
foods to ensure the results are consistent with the
views of nutrition professionals, and with existing
advise on healthy eating," said the FSA.
However nutrient profiling method has also been
criticized as 'unscientific', despite having the backing
of the FSA's Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition.
The agency has published a rebuttal to some of main
points of criticism, including that the model uses a
100g measure rather than actual portion size; some foods
normally seen as healthy - like honey, raisons, marmite
and cheese - are "demonised"; and that 80 per cent of
cereals adverts will be banned, yet only one in five
children eats breakfast.
The restrictions are expected to have a noticeable
impact on food companies.
"To some extent, the food and drink industry has already
demonstrated its ability to self-regulate, with some
choosing to withdraw from targeting advertising to
younger children. However, the Ofcom restrictions will
have a much greater impact on the market, quite possibly
affecting the sales of many popular products," said Owen
Warnock, food law specialist at Eversheds law firm, in
While Ofcom has said that nutrient profiling will be a
spur to companies to reformulate their products using
healthier recipes, Leech does not agree.
"This is absolutely not the case," she said recently.
"Many manufacturers will have no incentive to innovate
because they will not be able to leap the profiling
Ofcom's co-regulatory partners, the Broadcast Committee
on Advertising Practice (BCAP) and the Advertising
Standards Authority, are responsible for implementing
the new scheduling and content rules and securing
compliance respectively. The new rules will form part of
the BCAP Television Advertising Standards Code.
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