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TV food and drink ads may face curbs

News, 11 January 2016

LONDON: The first week of the New Year has witnessed a series of medical reports urging British consumers to improve their lifestyles, and it now appears that official action may extend to TV advertising.

As the UK government prepares to launch its national childhood obesity strategy in the next few weeks, the Financial Times reported that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been urging Downing Street to curb TV ads of "junk food" aimed at children.

Public Health England last week announced a new app designed to help parents calculate how much sugar there is in food and drink products after revealing that five-year-olds are now eating their own body weight in sugar each year.

Meanwhile, Cancer Research UK and UK Health Forum warned that 670,000 more people in the UK could develop cancer in the next 20 years because of obesity or from being overweight.

The health bodies also warned that almost three-in-four adults will be overweight or obese by 2035 if current trends continue.


Culture Secretary John Whittingdale is reported to have voiced objections about further restrictions to the advertising of sugary and other unhealthy products amid concerns that the measures could cost broadcasters hundreds of millions of pounds, but there are indications that the UK government may toughen its approach.

Speaking in the Hungarian capital of Budapest last Thursday, Prime Minister David Cameron insisted that action had to be taken to deal with obesity.

"I don't really want to put new taxes on to anything but we do have to recognise that we face potentially in Britain something of an obesity crisis," he said.

"We do need to have a fully worked-up programme to deal with this problem and address these issues in Britain and we will be making announcements later in the year," he added.

The Financial Times reported that such a programme of action is expected to include a crackdown on the advertising of certain foods and drinks on family programmes, possibly including a total ban on advertising before 9pm.

That was also a key recommendation in Cancer Research UK's latest report, which also included a call for a 20p per litre tax on sugary drinks.

Data sourced from Financial Times, Daily Mail, BBC; additional content by Warc staff