British approach to junk food ads praised in US

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food companies, Nutrition, Advertising, Ofcom

The UK's crackdown on advertising junk food to children should
serve as an example to food companies and broadcasters in the US,
according to an influential pressure group in the nation.

"The new British regulations are far superior to the situation here, where the Federal Trade Commission continues to support a failed self-regulatory system,"​ said the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) on Friday. "If food companies and the advertising industry can survive under the new British standards, they could certainly survive under similarly tough standards in the United States,"​ said CSPI legal affairs director Bruce Silverglade. The announcement comes after the UK's advertising watchdog, the Office of Communications (Ofcom), published its final statement on the television advertising of food and drink products to children. Ofcom's statement follows the conclusion of its additional consultation. This proposed to extend restrictions on the television advertising of food and drink products high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) to include programmes and channels aimed at children aged under 16. CSPI last week said similar measures should be adopted by multinational food companies in the US. According to the consumer advocacy group, the industry-funded Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU) in the US enforces a set of "narrow technical guidelines"​, which unlike the new British rules, do not consider the nutritional quality of foods. The Council of Better Business Bureaus, which oversees both CARU and its parent organization National Advertising Review Council, is promoting a new initiative that "merely requires food companies to pledge that 50 percent of their ads contain a message encouraging healthy diets or physical activity,"​ said CSPI in a statement. In the UK, however, industry reaction to the new restrictions has not been positive. The nation's Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said it was "disappointed thatOfcomhas decided to extend the restrictions on advertising to cover young people.""Ofcom notes TV advertising has a modest, direct effect on children's food choices and is only one among many influences​. So (last week's) decision will not, by itself, reduce childhood obesity; there are no silver bullets that can be fired at this particular problem. The food and drink industry remains committed to playing its part, working with government and others, to deliver a lasting solution to the complex issue of obesity,"saidFDF's​ director general Melanie Leech.​ The FDF said that it was also concerned that regulations continue to be based on a "scientifically flawed nutrient profiling model that has rightly come under fire from the media, MPs and nutritionists." ​The scheduling restrictions will now come into effect on a phased basis for all channels. As of 1 April 2007, HFSS advertisements will not be permitted in or around programmes made for children (including pre-school children), or in or around programmes that are likely to be of particular appeal to children aged four to nine. From 1 January 2008, HFSS advertisements will not be permitted in or around programmes made for children (including pre-school children), or in or around programmes that are likely to be of particular appeal to children aged four to 15. Children's channels will be allowed a graduated phase-in period, with full implementation required by the end of December 2008. Ofcom's co-regulatory partners, the Broadcast Committee on Advertising Practice (BCAP) and the Advertising Standards Authority, are now responsible for implementing the new scheduling and content rules and securing compliance respectively. The new rules will form part of the BCAP Television Advertising Standards Code.

Related topics: Policy

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