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Junk food ban extended online in UK

Press Association logoPress Association 8/12/2016

Junk food advertising in the UK is to be banned across all children's media - including online and social - in a landmark decision to help tackle childhood obesity.

The new rules will ban the advertising of food or drinks high in fat, salt or sugar across all non-broadcast media targeted at under-16s from July 2017, the Committee of Advertising Practice said.

The changes bring media such as print, cinema and, crucially, online and social media, into line with television, where strict regulation prohibits the advertising of unhealthy food to children.

They ban ads that directly or indirectly promote an HFSS product from appearing in children's media or other media where children make up more than 25 per cent of the audience.

The new restrictions also apply to TV-like content online, such as video-sharing platforms or 'advergames', if they are directed at or likely to appeal particularly to children.

A ban on companies using promotions, licensed characters or celebrities popular with children in ads for HFSS food or drink will be partly lifted for the advertising of healthier options.

Shifting media habits among young people and evolving advertising techniques had fundamentally changed children's relationship with media, the committee said.

The "significant" change would help protect the health and wellbeing of children and lead to a major reduction in the number of ads for HFSS food and drinks they see, said the organisation, which is responsible for writing and maintaining the UK advertising codes.

Latest figures from Britain's communication regulator Ofcom show that young people aged between five and 15 now spend about 15 hours each week online, overtaking the time they spend watching television.

"Childhood obesity is a serious and complex issue and one that we're determined to play our part in tackling," CAP chairman James Best said.

"These restrictions will significantly reduce the number of ads for high, fat, salt or sugar products seen by children."

But Jenny Rosborough, campaign manager at Action on Sugar, called for restrictions to be extended to programmes such as X Factor, which are hugely popular with children but exempt from restrictions because they fall outside children's programming.

Food and Drink Federation director general Ian Wright said the group "fully supported" the new rules while Professor Neena Modi, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said the move is another positive step forward in the fight to tackle the rising prevalence of overweight and obesity in children, and the damaging health effects of junk food and fizzy drinks.

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