Government Orders Stricter Guidelines for UK Food Ads

02 December 2003

The code governing UK food and drink advertising targeting children is to be tightened after pressure from the government.

Culture, media and sport secretary Tessa Jowell has asked new communications regulator Ofcom to toughen advertising guidelines in order to combat the "growing crisis of obesity in children".

Speaking to UK newspaper The Guardian, Jowell hit out at the "inadequate code" currently in operation. She has decided to back tougher ad regulations "in the light of the emerging evidence about the impact of advertising."

The promotion of unhealthy snacks during children's TV programmes has come under fire as authorities face up to Britain's growing obesity problem. Around 15% of 15-year-olds are now officially classed as 'obese'.

The government's Food Standards Agency has repeatedly asserted that advertising must bear some of the blame. It is currently consulting the industry and is expected to complete its review in the new year.

Food marketers, however, have vigorously defended themselves, arguing that obesity is a result of lack of exercise rather than higher calorie intake.

Industry group the Food & Drink Federation blasted Jowell's plans to tighten the ad code, pointing to existing guidelines overseen by the Independent Television Commission and the Advertising Standards Authority. "There is already a strict code in existence which the food and drink industry has an exemplary record of obeying," it argued.

Despite these comments, advertisers will be pleased that Jowell has stopped short of advocating a blanket ad ban, an option favoured by some campaigners. Nevertheless, the minister warned that the food industry had to act in the public interest if it is to avoid this course of action.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff