Ofcom junk food ad proposals not tough enough says FSA

LONDON - The government's food watchdog will tell media regulator Ofcom that its proposals on junk food advertising are not tough enough and that a 9pm watershed ban on such ads is needed.

The Food Standards Agency says that proposals, drawn up by the media watchdog Ofcom and including options based on restricting content, timing, sponsorship and volume of food and drink ads, need to be more tightly controlled.

Ofcom disappointed the FSA by ruling out a ban on advertising junk food before the 9pm watershed in March.

Ofcom steered clear of such a ban because it would hit broadcasters' advertising revenues. Earlier this week, Ofcom released figures estimating that television were at risk of losing as much as £140.8m a year, out of the total £5.6bn UK TV generates in ad revenue annually.

The options laid on the table are for timing restrictions to be put in place on specific food and drink products, which would see no junk food ads shown in programmes for children up to nine years old.

In addition, no ads of any food and drink should be shown in programmes of particular appeal to children up to nine years old.

Sponsorship by certain food products in these programmes would also be ruled out under FSA proposals.

Timing restrictions on ads for food and drink for pre-school children and volume-based limits on all products is a third proposal, while Ofcom has offered, as a fourth option, an invitation to propose a workable and effective scheme, combining some or all of the other three propositions.

At a meeting today, the FSA is expected to reject these options and will say that a full ban on junk food commercials before 9pm would extend protection to older age groups.

The Ofcom public consultation closes on June 30.

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