The Liverpool View: New rules to ban junk food ads aimed at children announced

Following a full public consultation, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has announced tough new rules banning the advertising of high fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) food or drink products in children’s media. The rules will apply across all non-broadcast media including in print, cinema and, crucially, online and in social media.

Dr Emma Boyland is a Lecturer in appetite and obesity at the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society and Trustee of the UK Association for the Study of Obesity.

“The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has today announced new rules regarding the advertising of high fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) food or drink products within non-broadcast media (including online, social media, print, cinema). The rules are designed to apply to content that is targeted at or ‘likely to be of particular appeal’ to children up to the age of 16, and will apply from 1st July 2017.

Broadly speaking, this is a positive step. The intention from CAP appears to be to bring the regulations of food advertising in online and other spaces more in line with those that govern TV advertising. This move is an acknowledgement that exposure to advertising for HFSS products does influence children’s eating behaviour in such a way that is detrimental to their health. Our research has shown this to be the case for both television and the Internet.

As with those TV advertising rules, brought in almost a decade ago, the headlines sound great but it’s when we get into the details that concerns arise. For example, the rules are due to apply to media whereby 25% or more of the audience is under 16 years of age. Some online video loggers (vloggers) get 20 million+ views, so five million children could still be exposed to persuasive marketing for HFSS products this way.

Also, how will this be determined and enforced for electronic bus stops? It also appears that the new regulations are not set up to tackle the wide range of sophisticated and immersive ways in which children are exposed to food marketing online, as outlined in our recent WHO report. We need regulation that is fit for the way children interact with the online world, and while these rules are progress, it may not be sufficient to truly protect children from the many new and powerful food marketing techniques that now exist.”






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