The UK advertising watchdog has begun a consultation that could see tough new restrictions introduced on marketing junk food to children.
The Committee of Advertising Practise (CAP) is responsible for writing the UK advertising code. There is currently a ban on junk food TV adverts for all children’s programming, but this new consultation could see the ban extended to all media, including online outlets.
The announcement comes after a UK study found this week that eating junk food causes similar kidney damage as type 2 damage.
A diet heavy in junk food increases the risk of obesity, which has a significant relationship with type 2 diabetes. The government’s introduction of a sugar tax earlier this year was designed to tackle childhood obesity, and their full childhood obesity strategy is expected later this year.
The CAP is exploring restrictions on the promotion of foods high in fat, salt and sugar to children under the age of 16. Currently, junk food can be advertised to children in non-broadcast media.
James Best, chairman of CAP, said: “Too many children in the UK are growing up overweight or even obese, potentially damaging their health in later life and imposing a high cost on society.
“Advertising is just one small factor in a very complex equation but we believe we can play a positive part in addressing an urgent societal challenge. In proposing new rules, our aim is to strike the right balance between protecting children and enabling businesses to continue advertising their products responsibly.”
These new rules could ban the use of licensed characters and celebrities to promote junk food, but relax rules allowing them to advertise healthier foods to children.
“Available evidence shows that advertising has a modest effect on children’s food preferences, but other factors like parental influence, opportunities for physical exercise, education etc, play greater roles in the causes of and solutions to childhood obesity,” said the CAP.
“However, CAP believes even a relatively small positive impact from new advertising restrictions could make a meaningful contribution to tackling this important health issue.”
The CAP’s consultation is scheduled to close in July.

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