The Government has announced new restrictions on the paid-for advertisement of foods high in fat, salt, and sugar (HFSS) online, as well as a 21:00 watershed for broadcast TV.
The new rules are part of a wider plan to protect children from obesity. In addition, on-demand programme services (ODPS) under UK jurisdiction will be included in the TV watershed, whilst non-regulated ODPS will be included in the online restriction as they are outside UK jurisdiction.
These restrictions will be included in the forthcoming Health and Care Bill, which is expected to come into force at the end of 2022. Ofcom will be appointed as the statutory backstop and will have the powers to appoint a frontline regulator, which the Government anticipates will be the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
SMEs (companies with fewer than 250 staff) will be exempted from all the restrictions, whilst broadcast radio will be exempted from the online restrictions. Business-to-business advertising and media supporting point of sale/purchase/transactional content are both exempt from the online restrictions. Brand-only advertising will continue to be permitted provided that no HFSS products are shown in the advert.
The 2004 to 2005 Nutrient Profile Model (NPM) will be used to determine if products in scope of the law are HFSS products. The food and drink categories in scope will be taken forward in secondary legislation and a consultation on the wording of draft regulations will take place. The list of banned products will be reviewed periodically.
The Government’s impact assessment of the policy estimates that advertisers will lose £659m in advertising spending over a 25-year period. The Advertising Association has expressed disappointment at the restrictions, observing: “Content providers – online publishers and broadcasters – will lose vital advertising revenue to fund jobs in editorial and programme-making.
"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.”