HFSS advertising aimed at children on Broadcast Media- a consultation response

In 2018 the RCPCH replied to an open call for evidence on food advertising aimed at children from the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP).

The RCPCH set out several key actions to tackle childhood obesity in our 2017 ‘State of Child Health’ Report. In our recent follow-up report ‘The State of Child Health One Year On’ we have undertaken an audit of actions against these recommendations, and while there has been some progress, significant further action is required. Within our suite of recommendations, we have repeatedly called for there to be a ban on advertising of food high in high in saturated fat, sugar and salt in all broadcast media before 9pm. The call for evidence can be found here. 

Our response 

  • Current rules to restrict exposure to HFSS adverts do not go far enough in protecting children when they watch TV the most, between 6pm and 9pm, as this viewing period does not typically feature children-specific programming.
  • Research has demonstrated that TV marketing is a consistent risk factor for unhealthy eating and drinking. Using a UK-wide sample of 11-16 year old's the study showed that CYP with high TV exposure were: 1.9 times more likely to consume 2 or more sugary drinks per week; 1.8 times more likely to consume 1 or more takeaways per week; and 1.7 times more likely to consume fried potato products 1 or more times per week.
  • While the College agrees that there are a range of factors which contribute to a child’s risk of being overweight or obese, we strongly refute the statement contained in the CAP consultation document which suggests that advertising is not one of the main influences on increasing rates of childhood obesity in the UK

Our recommendations

  • We continue to recommend that there is a total ban on advertising of food high in saturated fat, sugar and salt in all broadcast media before 9pm. This is line with our repeated calls for this in both our State of Child Health report and State of Child Health One Year On. 
  • We also continue to recommend coordinated obesity prevention efforts from a wide range of stakeholders, including parents, businesses and the government.