Britain's Food Standards Agency this week introduced its blueprint for a plan to rate manufactured foods by means of a 'health scorecard'. The proposal received a cool reception from the Food Advertising Unit - an offshoot of the UK Advertising Association.

Says FAU director Jeremy Preston: "We will be considering the FSA's proposals accordingly, but it is important that any restrictions based on this model are proportionate to ensure a balance between business needs and consumer protection."

Consumerist advocates, however, are of the opinion that "business needs" should take second place to protection of the public's health.

Says Michelle Smyth, principal public affairs officer, Which?: "The model will be useful when determining restrictions in advertising foods that are high in sugar, fat and salt to children on TV and radio. We would like to see it further developed for health claims and for signpost labelling.

"Moving forward, the FSA will need to trail it against a broader range of foods targeted to children to ensure that it doesn't present any conflicting health messages."

The new 'scorecard' system has been devised by the FSA at the request of media regulator Ofcom, which is currently mulling possible restrictions on the adverting and promoting of food products deemed unhealthy to children.

As part of its evaluation, Ofcom is expected to consult by the year end with the advertising and food industries over proposed changes to rules governing food advertising. Once agreed, these are likely to be implemented by the end of 2007.

Data sourced from Media Week (UK) and Which?; additional content by WARC staff