Unhealthy food advertisements have officially been banned from children's media, Cap rules

Courtney Goldsmith
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Cap hopes under-16s will no longer see advertisements for high fat, salt or sugar products (Source: Getty)

Rules banning the advertising of high fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) products in children's media will extend to apply to social media and online advertising, The Committee of Advertising Practice (Cap) today announced.

Formerly applying only to broadcast advertising, this new rule for under-16s has been set for all non-broadcast media, including print, cinema and online and social media.

The new rules are particularly targeting online and social media advertising as young peoples' habits are shifting away from television. Young people aged 5-15 are now spending around 15 hours each week online, overtaking time spent watching a traditional TV for the first time, Cap said.

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Ian Wright, director general of Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said the organisation fully supported the move to target social media and online advertising.

The rule comes into effect 1 July 2017, and decisions on which products will be classified as HFSS will be made by the department of health and nutrition's profiling model.

Ads that directly or indirectly promote HFSS products will be banned in children's media or media where children make up more than 25 per cent of the audience. Cap said ads will also not be allowed to use promotions, licensed characters or celebrities popular with children in unhealthy advertisements.

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Ian Twinn of ISBA said the change was led by advertisers who want to hold advertising accountable and contribute to the government's fight against obesity.

The effect on the market will be minimal. It is not going to affect the big spenders who are buying against non-children advertising times. They will shift their spend into different media avoiding children but still hoping reach the parents.

Regulation is important, but the effects of advertising are relatively small, Stephen Woodford, chief executive of Advertising Association (AA) said.

Cap admitted itself that available evidence shows the effect of advertising on children's food preferences is relatively small compared to factors like parental influences, but still believes that a small positive impact is a good start.

Cap chairman James Best said, “Our tough new rules are a clear demonstration that the ad industry is willing and ready to act on its responsibilities and puts the protection of children at the heart of its work.”

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Malcolm Clark, co-ordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign, said he was glad Cap was pushing for harder advertising rules but said banning advertising only when children make up more than 25 per cent of the audience isn't enough.

This figure provides insufficient protection to children, whilst giving parents little knowledge of what is and isn’t covered. Parents will also be disappointed to find out there will be no restrictions on sugary food and drink emblazoned with children’s favourite cartoon or film characters, or in the use of child-friendly brand characters on packaging either.

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