Labour pledges to ban junk food ads on TV before watershed

Cadbury: ads for chocolate bars could be banned before 9pm under Labour proposals
Cadbury: ads for chocolate bars could be banned before 9pm under Labour proposals

Labour has announced it will ban the advertising of food high in fat, salt and sugar before the 9pm watershed if the party wins power next month.

The party claimed the move would reduce children’s exposure to ads for these products by 82%, based on Ofcom’s figures on the impact of the current regulations, introduced in 2005.

The move is among a series of measures aimed at halving childhood obesity within a decade, and making the UK "the healthiest country in the world to grow up in."

The plans include introducing an "index of child health" to measure progress against international standards; requiring all government departments to have a child health strategy; and creating a £250m annual child health fund to support it, paid for by cutting management consultancy costs in the NHS.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: "The scandal of child ill-health is a long-standing, growing and urgent challenge. It should be matter of shame that a child’s health is so closely linked to poverty and that where and in what circumstances you grow up can dramatically affect your life chances.

"Evidence shows the link between deprivation and poor health in childhood, so with child poverty on the rise, the need for action becomes more acute."

But with Labour currently looking unlikely to win the election (the latest poll from Opinium has the incumbent Conservative Party ahead with a 16-point lead), the policy has little chance of becoming reality in the near future.

Public health minister Nicola Blackwood dismissed the plans – although declined to outline any further steps Theresa May’s government planned to take to tackle childhood obesity.

Blackwood said: "Reducing childhood obesity is vital. That’s why the public health watchdog says that the childhood obesity plan we’ve put in place is the most ambitious in the world, and why we have one of the strictest TV advertising regimes of any country.

"But the truth is that families deserve more than unfunded promises from Jeremy Corbyn. We spent £3.4bn on public health programmes last year – that can only be funded by a strong economy which Corbyn would risk with his nonsensical economic ideas."

Last December, the Advertising Standards Authority announced new rules, set to come into force in July, banning ads for HFSS foods in any media aimed at under 16s, including social media and gaming sites aimed at children.

Shahriar Coupal, director of the Committee of Advertising Practice and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice, said at the time that the move was prompted by big changes in children’s media consumption – with five- to 15-year-olds now spending more time online than watching TV.

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