Junk food ads ban is delayed to give companies time to adjust to new rules

A ban on advertising junk food online and on TV before the 9pm watershed is to be delayed by over two years — just weeks before it was set to take effect. 

New rules restricting the promotion of products high in fat, salt and sugar were due to come into force next month in a bid to combat the nation’s bulging waistlines. 

But the government has agreed to push the curbs back to October 2025 to give firms more time to reformulate their products and adjust their marketing strategies. 

A ban on buy one get one free offers on junk food has already been delayed by a year amid fears it could push up the price of goods at a time when families are already struggling with a cost of living crisis. 

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A ban on advertising junk food online and on TV before 9pm is to be postponed until 2025. [File image] 

Health charities last night branded the further delays ‘disgraceful’ and warned it will lead to more children growing up overweight and at serious risk of ill health. 

Being overweight increases the risk of heart disease, cancer and type-2 diabetes – and obesity costs the NHS £6.1billion a year. 

More than six in ten adults in the UK are overweight or obese, with more than one in four children starting primary school too fat, rising to four in ten by the time they leave. 

The planned advertising restrictions are among the toughest in the world and would ban firms from promoting some products on TV before 9pm and online at any time. 

The government’s consultation on the proposals estimated that children under 16 were exposed to 15billion junk food ads online in 2019, compared with 700million two years earlier. 

It is expected to impact on the more than £600million spent by brands on all food advertising online and on TV each year. 

Laws restricting the placement of junk food in supermarkets came into force on October 1 and large restaurants, cafes and takeaways were forced to add calories to menus from April this year. 

A statutory instrument legally delaying the junk food advertising ban will be made this week. 

Restrictions on ads for products high in fat, salt and sugar were due next month to combat the nation¿s bulging waistlines. [File image]

Restrictions on ads for products high in fat, salt and sugar were due next month to combat the nation’s bulging waistlines. [File image] 


Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS

Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS

• Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count

• Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain

• 30 grams of fibre a day: This is the same as eating all of the following: 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, 2 whole-wheat cereal biscuits, 2 thick slices of wholemeal bread and large baked potato with the skin on

• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks) choosing lower fat and lower sugar options

• Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)

• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts

• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water a day

• Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men a day

Source: NHS Eatwell Guide 

Katharine Jenner, director of the Obesity Health Alliance, which represents leading health charities and royal medical colleges, said: ‘Delaying junk food advertising restrictions is a shocking move by the Government, with no valid justification to do so, other than giving a flimsy excuse that businesses need more time to prepare and reformulate. 

‘Children currently in reception class will now have to face a devastating health trajectory, as efforts to improve their future health have been fatally undermined. 

‘Research shows restricting junk food adverts on TV and online would significantly reduce the number of children with excess weight. 

‘This is the action of a government that seems to care more about its own short-term political health than the longer-term health of children. 

‘We urge Rishi Sunak to reverse this attack on child health and to shorten the delay to 2024, to at least give children a better chance to grow up healthy.’ 

Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of campaign groups Action on Sugar and Action on Salt, described the delay as ‘hugely disappointing’ and said it goes against the ‘overwhelming evidence and public support’. 

He added: ‘The only people to benefit from this baseless delay are the multinational food companies who are used to making huge profits from their unhealthy products and do not have a vested interest in the nation’s health. 

‘This whole saga has been a huge waste of tax payer’s money and will now put more children at risk – in fact, this policy could reduce the number of children living with obesity by 20,000 over a few years. 

‘This has been orchestrated by a government which clearly has no intention of levelling up or committing to its promises in protecting the nation’s health from the devastating effects of unhealthy diets high in saturated fat, salt and sugar.’ 

Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK, described the delay as ‘disgraceful’ and warned they ‘directly undermine’ the government commitment to halving childhood obesity by 2030. 

He added: ‘The environment around us heavily influences our food choices, and in delaying the junk food marketing ban, the Government is giving companies the green light to continue to bombard children with adverts for foods high in fat, salt and sugar, making it needlessly difficult to choose healthy options.’ 

A spokesperson for the Advertising Association said: ‘If these reports are true, it would certainly be helpful to have a clear implementation date, for planning purposes, with a proper timeframe to allow for the regulatory processes and guidance to be put in place. 

‘However, we continue to believe that this is the wrong policy and will do nothing to tackle obesity. 

‘Addressing the challenges of obesity in this country require well-funded, multi-faceted programmes focused on making changes in local communities, not population-wide and non-targeted approaches like advertising bans.’ 

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘The government takes tackling obesity seriously. Having a fit and healthy population is essential for a thriving economy and will continue to work closely with industry to make it easier for people to make healthier choices. We remain committed to helping people live healthier lives.

‘Last month, for example, we announced £20million to trial new obesity treatments and technologies to help save the NHS billions.

‘We remain committed to introducing restrictions banning adverts on TV for foods and drinks high in fat, salt, or sugar before 9pm, as well as paid-for adverts online.’

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