19 May

TV and online junk food advertising to be banned before the watershed

The government has confirmed a total ban on TV and online junk food advertising before the watershed.

As part of the Health and Care Bill, which was outlined recently in the Queen’s Speech, all adverts for junk food will be banned before 9pm. The bill also requires businesses with over 250 employees to publish calorie content on food items. The bill was announced following a six-week consultation period, which launched in November 2020. 

New plans have also been introduced to put a stop to promotions, including multi-buy offers and buy-one-get-one-free deals. Free refills on soft drinks will also be banned in some establishments. Prav Solanki, a dental healthcare consultant says that advertisers should take more responsibility for their messaging especially when there are serious impacts on long-term health and habits.

The move is part of a far-ranging policy, which is designed to tackle childhood obesity and bring rates of dental decay down. The number of children who are overweight or obese is increasing year on year and decay is the most common cause of hospital admission among children in the UK.

Diet plays an integral role in increasing the risk of both obesity and dental problems in youngsters. Research also suggests that children who are overweight are more likely to be obese in later life. 

Ministers are hoping that prohibiting targeted advertising before 9pm and banning multi-buy offers on sugary foods will decrease consumption. Publishing calorie content and including clear food labelling should also provide parents, older children and carers with the information they need to make healthier choices. 

Restrictions on multi-buy offers will come into force in April 2022. Fizzy drinks are one of the most common causes of tooth decay in children. Even diet drinks are acidic, which contributes to enamel erosion, increasing the risk of cavities forming. Dentists advise offering children milk, water or sugar-free cordial as an alternative. Some products, which are marketed as healthy options for children, including fruit juice and smoothies, also contain a lot of added sugar. Clear labelling will enable parents to determine which products are best for their child.