Keeping Food Advertising Standards High

News that government will delay until 2024 restrictions on the advertising of ‘less healthy’ food and soft drink products won’t leave a vacuum of regulation. Very far from it - the UK has longstanding, strict rules controlling their media placement, audience targeting and creative content and the ASA remains strongly committed to proactively enforcing them.

A small graphic to visualise the three layers of protection afforded by the ASA and CAP's ad rules

For example, we continue to ban ‘less healthy’ food and soft drink product ads in children’s media. In fact, we go much further by allowing them only to be shown exclusively or predominantly to adult audiences, in which adults comprise at least three quarters of the audience.  

We do this because evidence suggests advertising is one of many factors that affect children’s food preferences, albeit modestly. Our rules therefore remain an important part of a wide range of measures that balance public health interventions with personal responsibilities, with the objective of tackling obesity and its multifactorial causes.

We also continue to use technology to proactively monitor the media landscape for any breaches of our rules, taking compliance action as necessary. Our ASA CCTV-style Reports and ASA Avatar Reports bring transparency and assign accountability to this important area of our work, and their findings have triggered a significant strengthening of our online targeting guidance, which we will say more about shortly.

So, whilst we stand ready to work with government to play our part in any updates to the rules on ads for ‘less healthy’ food and drink advertising in the UK, it would be a mistake to think the delay to government’s restrictions leaves an absence of regulation. It doesn’t - this advertising remains controlled by longstanding, strict rules and ASA enforcement of them continues to go from strength-to-strength, evolving and improving to ensure we keep children’s exposure to them at appropriately low levels.

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