Ban junk food adverts before 9pm, say experts

Leading campaign groups are calling for an end to junk food advertisements before the watershed in a bid to combat obesityLeading campaign groups are calling for an end to junk food advertisements before the watershed in a bid to combat obesity.

Action on Sugar, Action on Salt and 47 other health charities are urging Prime Minister Boris Johnson to implement all outstanding recommendations in the government’s childhood obesity plan.

This includes restricting junk food ads before 9pm. Experts argue that food and drinks that are high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) should not be allowed to advertise before this time.

Over the last two months, it has been suggested that Johnson is keen to crackdown on obesity after his own battle with COVID-19. 

But campaigners argue that any new obesity strategy needs to include restrictions on food marketing and advertising. And not just on television but across all media platforms, including social media.

Singular actions, it states, ‘cannot solve the problem and allow far too many loopholes’.

Multifaceted benefits

A government consultation into obesity closed in June 2019 – and is yet to be carried out. But evidence was presented on the need to restrict junk food advertising. It argued that the policy will:

  • Likely to benefit adults as well as children. This is due to reduced exposure and pester power (which significantly influences purchasing decisions)
  • Have a mutual impact for BAME communities (as the policy does not differentiate race)
  • Have an increased benefit for those who are socially deprived
  • Encourage reformulation by the food and drink industry, and improve nutritional quality of their foods. As a result, the products become healthy enough to advertise before 9pm.

Robust policy package

Mhairi Brown, policy and public affairs manager at Action on Sugar and Salt, called this Johnson’s ‘golden opportunity’

‘In order for the Prime Minister’s new obesity plan to be effective and change the health trajectory of future generations, a robust and joined up policy package is required,’ she said.

‘It should not be a pick and mix of measures which allow loopholes to be exploited.

‘Once again, inequalities are brought to the forefront as a result of COVID-19. Mr Johnson has a golden opportunity to ensure that lessons learned during the pandemic are translated to equitable access to health for all.’


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