Tougher new food and drink rules come into effect in children’s media

Tough new rules banning ads for food and drinks high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) in children’s non-broadcast media come into effect on Saturday 1 July. The rules apply to media targeted at under-16s and will mean a major reduction in the number of ads children see for HFSS products.

Following a full public consultation last year by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), and reflecting restrictions already in place on TV, the new rules apply to children’s non-broadcast media (including print, posters, cinema, online and in social media). And crucially, ads for HFSS products will no longer be allowed to appear around TV-like content online, such as video-sharing platforms, if it is directed at children. 
The new rules come in response to changing media habits amongst young people, with research showing that youngsters aged 5-15 are spending around 15 hours each week online – overtaking time spent watching a TV set. They also respond to wider concerns in society about the public health challenges surrounding childhood obesity and what part the advertising industry can play in helping to change our children’s relationship with less healthy foods.

In summary, the new rules state:

•    Ads that directly or indirectly promote an HFSS product cannot appear in children’s media
•    Ads for HFSS products cannot appear in other media where children make up over 25% of the audience 
•    If the content targets under-12s, ads for HFSS products will not be allowed to use promotions, licensed characters and celebrities popular with children; advertisers may now use those techniques to better promote healthier options
•    The Department of Health nutrient profiling model will be used to classify which products are HFSS

CAP recognises the multiple and complex factors, beyond advertising, that can be instrumental in childhood obesity; including parental influence, sedentary lifestyles and education.  While the evidence shows that advertising has a modest effect on children’s food preferences, CAP believes the new ad restrictions will still have a positive impact in reducing harm to children. 
Chairman of CAP, James Best said: “The tougher new advertising food rules are a significant and positive change designed to help protect the health and wellbeing of children. These measures demonstrate the advertising industry’s continuing commitment to putting the protection of children at the heart of its work. The new rules will alter the nature and balance of food advertising seen by children and play a meaningful part in helping change their relationship with less healthy foods.” 

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