Government obesity plan falls shortWhich? says it offers nothing new

24 January 2008

boy eating doughnut

An official review of new food and drink advertising rules will be pulled forward as part of the drive to cut obesity.

Ofcom will assess the restrictions and report back with its findings as soon as possible.

A total ban on adverts for unhealthy food and drink products around TV programmes for under-16s came into force on January 1.

Restrictions

The move extended similar restrictions already in place for shows aimed at children under ten years which came in last year.

But the curbs fell short of the pre-9pm ban on all TV adverts for unhealthy products demanded by Which? and other consumer groups.

Communications regulator Ofcom had intended to launch a review of the new rules this autumn but the government now wants it sooner.

Codes

The Advertising Standards Authority is already reviewing the advertising codes for non-broadcast media.

But none of the existing rules cover content on websites owned by the advertisers.

The cross-government health report announced yesterday outlined a strategy to cut obesity says that some firms have voluntarily pulled child-oriented websites.

'Lack of urgency'

However, the report adds: 'We welcome this action but, as with advertising, the impact of these principles will need to be kept under review to ensure that they keep pace with evolving practices.'

Sue Davies, chief policy adviser at Which? said: 'This strategy shows a shocking lack of urgency from the government. It doesn’t offer anything new in terms of combating junk food marketing, just a re-hash of several proposals that were on the table four years ago that haven’t been pushed through.

'While working with the food industry in some areas has proved fruitful, the government needs to take more responsibility in areas where the industry is dragging its heels, such as the marketing of unhealthy foods to children.'

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK's director of health information, said: 'It's disappointing that the Government has not committed to a 9pm advertising watershed for food high in salt, sugar and fat at this stage.'