Government plans to push ahead with a ban on unhealthy food adverts online and on TV before the 9pm television watershed has been branded “headline chasing policies” by the food and drink sector.
Small businesses will be exempt from the ban, which is part of Boris Johnson’s efforts to tackle obesity, under plans due to be unveiled by the Government on Thursday, it is understood.
However, restrictions will stop short of the total ban which was proposed last year, as brand-only advertising online and on TV will be allowed to continue.
Companies can continue to promote their products on their own websites and social media platforms under the new measures, which are to be brought in from 2023, it is understood.
Small businesses with 249 employees or fewer will be exempt from the ban and permitted to advertise foods high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS).
The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said the proposals would make it difficult to advertise products reformulated or created in smaller portions to be in line with the Government’s own targets.
FDF’s chief scientific officer Kate Halliwell said: “We are disappointed that the Government continues to press ahead with headline chasing policies which will undermine existing Government policies, principally the reformulation programmes to reduce calories, sugars, salt and portion sizes.
“Not only do the proposals signal a lack of joined-up policy, the implementation periods for both advertising and promotional restrictions do not give businesses enough time to prepare for the changes.”
Research by the NHS has found that one in three children leaves primary school overweight, or obese, and almost two-thirds of adults in England are overweight or living with obesity.
Analysis by the Obesity Health Alliance (OHA) earlier this year suggested ending the ads could benefit children by removing the equivalent of 150 million chocolate biscuits or 41 million cheeseburgers a year from their diets.
The Advertising Association said it was “dismayed” by the move, which will mean food and drink companies will not be able to advertise “new product innovations and reformulations”.
Sue Eustace, public affairs director at the Advertising Association, said: “We all want to see a healthier, more active population, but the Government’s own analysis shows these measures won’t work.
“Levelling up society will not be achieved by punishing some of the UK’s most successful industries for minimal effect on obesity levels.”