Government considers total ban of online adverts for high sugar products

A total ban of online advertising for high sugar and high fat food and drink products could be considered by the government

The total restriction of online advertising for high sugar products could be considered by the government. 

In a new consultation, the Department of Health and Social Care is looking for views on a complete online ban for products high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS).

This comes as part of the government’s strategy to drive down obesity rates, particularly among children.

Currently, those aged five to 15 years old spend around 20 minutes more online every day in comparison to a television set.

Ramped up exposure

Evidence suggests this shift is also reflected in food and drink advertising. For example, there was a 450% increase in spend on online display between 2010 and 2017.

Professor Graham MacGregor, chair of Action on Sugar, welcomes the consultation.

‘We very much welcome this consultation on whether we should only advertise healthy food and drink online. It gives opportunity for ministers to hear from the many parents who are frustrated with their children being bombarded with advertising for unhealthy foods,’ he says.

‘The message from the government has been to “stay home” for much of the year in the fight against COVID-19. This will have no doubt vastly increased children’s exposure to such irresponsible marketing, which casts unhealthy products in the spotlight.

‘It’s therefore vital that a total ban across all online platforms is introduced. It would ensure that all loopholes, including paid-for promotions whereby brands are using marketing techniques to push junk food ads, would be firmly closed and help turn the tide on obesity.’

Entirely preventable

Additionally, Dr Saul Konviser of the Dental Wellness Trust says further restrictions are imperative if children’s oral health is to improve.

‘Oral health is a key indicator of overall health, wellbeing and quality of life. Yet unfortunately, tooth decay remains one of the most common non-communicable diseases worldwide,’ he said.

‘It is therefore imperative that only non-HFSS products can be marketed and promoted to children. And that must include a total online ban on promotions and advertising.

‘As the latest figures by the Local Government Association show, nearly 45,000 hospital operations were performed to remove rotten teeth in 2018/19. This is a stark reminder that too much sugar, especially in children’s diets, can have dire consequences.

‘In addition, what’s most concerning is this is all entirely preventable.’

Slow progress

The consultation closes on Tuesday 22 December 2020. You can get involved here.

This comes as the National Audit Office urges the government to act with ‘greater urgency’ to improve the nation’s health.

‘Progress with the programme has been slow and many commitments are not yet in place,’ the report stated.

However, it acknowledges the new government strategy announced in July 2020 indicates a greater willingness.


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