Food advertising restrictions - consultation response

In 2019 we responded to the Government’s plans to place advertising restrictions on products high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS). We support a 21:00 watershed approach for both TV and online, ideally without any exemptions. We support the use of the Nutrient Profile Model to identify food and drinks which should be subject to restrictions.

The consultation formed part of the Department of Health and Social Care’s ‘Childhood obesity: a plan for action, chapter 2’, more information is available online

Our consultation response has been developed in collaboration with the Obesity Health Alliance (OHA), a coalition of over 40 leading health charities, medical royal colleges and campaign groups working together to influence Government policy to reduce obesity across the life course.

Our response

  • We support further restrictions being placed on products high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS). Restrictions should apply to packaging and sponsorship (including: TV channels, programmes, websites, sports events and school based activities).
  • We support use of the Nutrient Profile Model (NPM) to classify food and drinks as HFSS. It is an established and evidence based tool, which scores foods and drinks based on the balance of their beneficial and negative contents. NPM has already been accepted by industry for advertising purposes.
  • We expect that restrictions on advertisement of HFSS products will have numerous health benefits to children, namely reduced calorie intake. This has implications on childhood obesity, prevalence of Type 2 diabetes, dental health and mental health of children and young people. We also hope the policy will encourage further reformulation of products. 
  • The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child recognises that children need specific protections and the Government must work to ensure these. 
  • Research from Cancer Research UK has found that teenagers from the most deprived communities were 40% more likely to remember junk food advertisements every day compared to teens from better-off families. 

Our recommendations

  • We recommend the introduction of a 9pm watershed for broadcasting restrictions of HFSS products, which should apply to TV and online. This would restrict all HFSS advertising between 05:30 and 21:00.
  • We recommend that there should be no exemptions, no children should be exposed to HFSS adverts. Exemptions are likely to disproportionately affect children with autism spectrum disorder. 

We respond to a wide range of consultations to ensure that the College’s position, and ultimately children’s health, is represented. Members can get involved in current consultations by contacting the Health Policy team: health.policy@rcpch.ac.uk