Junk food adverts could be banned before 9pm as part of government plans to tackle childhood obesity, it has been reported.
Ministers are expected to launch a consultation which will consider the move to outlaw such advertisements on television and radio, according to a report by the Daily Telegraph.
Websites could also face tougher restrictions in the plans outlined and agreed last week by the Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
There are already bans in place for advertising around children’s TV programmes, but the paper says ministers are still concerned that “significant amounts” of adverts are promoting foods and drinks high in sugar.
Additionally, research from broadcasting watchdog Ofcom suggested youngsters watch programmes not intended for them for a combined 64% of their TV viewing time.
Junk food producers plough £143 million annually into advertising in the UK, while only £5 million is spent by the government on adverts promoting healthy eating, according to the Obesity Health Alliance.
Eating healthily, by restricting sugar intake and eating plenty of real-food, can help to lower the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes as well as other health complications.
Cancer Research UK last year revealed that youngsters aged six and over who watch one additional junk food advert every seven days can end up consuming an extra 18,000 calories each year.
Children who are obese have a five times greater risk of becoming overweight adults, while their chances of developing type 2 diabetes and cancer are much higher.
This pre-watershed ban on junk food on TV advertising could be brought in through changes to existing rules rather than introducing new legislation, but a new law would need to be brought in to cover the internet because it is unregulated.
Media consumption habits are changing with Ofcom revealing that 4 to 15-year-olds are spending 43% less time watching television than in 2010, with internet use increasing by 44% to 4.7 hours per week.
“The move could lead to the advertising budgets being deployed digitally instead, including by Facebook and Google.”
Some of the UK’s leading broadcasters – including ITV, Sky and Channel 5 – have raised concerns that this junk food advertising ban would financially damage their industry.

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