New food ad rules to protect children's healthOnly fruit and vegetables will be exempt

11 April 2007

New curbs on food and drink adverts were announced today in response to rising levels of childhood obesity - but Which? says they are a missed opportunity.

Fresh fruit and vegetables are the only products exempt from the measures, which ban all other print media adverts for food and soft drinks from encouraging under 16s to be unhealthy.

They aim to quash 'pester power' by banning phrases such as 'Ask Mummy to buy you..'.

And advertisers mustn't show children putting products into parents' supermarket trolleys.

The new rules apply to newspaper and magazine adverts, posters, cinema and online adverts.

No 'hard sell'

Advertisers will be banned from using 'hard sell' techniques and from using promotional offers in an irresponsible way for products aimed at children.

Tougher rules apply to adverts targeted directly at pre-school or primary age children.

Popular cartoon characters and celebrities will be banned from food and soft drink adverts aimed at this age group.

All promotional offers and nutritional claims will also be banned in food and drink adverts aimed at very young children.

The rules say children mustn't be encouraged to eat or drink near their bedtime or to snack throughout the day.

And advertisers mustn't play down product prices with words such as 'only' and 'just'.

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP)'s new rules come into force on July 1 this year.

'Strong commitment'

CAP chairman Andrew Brown said the new measures showed a 'strong commitment' by advertisers to responsible food and drink promotions.

'These comprehensive new rules are designed to help protect children's health while still allowing advertisers an appropriate degree of freedom to promote their products,' he said.

But Which? says the rules for older children are not clear enough.

Chief policy adviser Sue Davies says: 'The food industry and advertisers have missed an opportunity to show that they genuinely want to take a more responsible approach to the way foods are promoted to children.

'While we welcome the steps to protect younger children, it is very disappointing that the rules for older children are so vague .Terms such as ‘a due sense of responsibility’ and ‘not condoning or encouraging poor nutritional habits’ are too open to interpretation and will allow companies to continue targeting children above primary school age.

'The new rules state that celebrities and licensed characters won’t be able to advertise food to younger children but they will still be allowed to promote unhealthy foods to older children while characters created by food companies such as the Nesquik Bunny will not be covered at all.

'The CAP code doesn’t cover important types of promotion such as packaging and company websites. The Government needs to urgently step in and tackle this whole area.'