Thursday 27 June 2019 5:46 pm

TfL revises junk food ad ban after rules spark confusion

Transport for London (TfL) has overhauled the guidelines for its junk food advertising ban after critics slammed it as “absurd” and “confusing”.

TfL has been forced to clarify the details of its new ban, which is aimed at tackling childhood obesity, just four months after it was brought into force.

Read more: Critics slam ‘absurd’ TfL ad ban allowing adverts for fast food delivery

Under the new restrictions, adverts that contain images of food high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS) must not be shown on London’s transport network.

But TfL has now revised six of its 10 guidelines after a number of decisions sparked confusion.

In March an advert for organic grocery firm Farmdrop was banned because it contained pictures of bacon, butter and jam, drawing criticism that the rules unfairly targeted everyday products.

Moreover, critics have pointed out that food delivery firms such as Just Eat and Deliveroo have continued to promote unhealthy foods.

The lack of clarity has even taken its toll on TfL’s own campaigns, and earlier this year the company decided to remove posters promoting Wimbledon because they featured strawberries and cream.

The new guidelines, first reported by the Evening Standard, state that food can be included in adverts if it is only incidental and not being promoted.

TfL also tightened the rules on the use of children in food adverts and stated that products can only be advertised in single portions.

Stephen Woodford, chief executive of the Advertising Association, said: “These revisions cause additional confusion for industry, which is striving to comply with a poorly thought-out and rushed policy. 

Read more: Advertisers slam government over junk food ad ban proposals

“A number of the issues now rectified were pointed out by industry in the consultation period and could have been avoided had the mayor of London accepted the offer from the UK advertising industry, particularly its out-of-home advertising sector, to work together on this issue.”

A TfL spokesperson said that while the guidelines had been revised, the underlying rules had not changed.

“Child obesity in London is a serious issue and the mayor is determined to do all he can to tackle it,” a statement said. “Our policy, which has not changed since we introduced it in February, is designed to reduce children’s exposure to adverts for food and drink which could contribute to this problem.

“The recent updates to our guidelines simply reflect how we continue to positively work with brands to review, clarify and evolve the guidelines to help ensure healthier food options are advertised on our network. Many brands have and continue to work to successfully comply with our policy and it is wrong to suggest that there is any confusion about its implementation.”