UK body set for public consultation on junk food advertising rules

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

CAP announces consultation on junk food advertising rules

Related tags Advertising

The UK's Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) will begin a public consultation on new rules for marketing junk food to children in early 2016 amid growing concerns over children's diet, it has announced.

It will look at on rules surrounding for non-broadcast advertising, such as online advergames, billboards, adverts in the press and direct marketing.

CAP said: "Through public consultation and against a background of concern about children’s diets, we will ask a broad range of stakeholders whether a change of approach is now needed: an approach that would introduce for the first time in the non-broadcast code, rules dedicated to the targeting of advertising, to children, of food and soft drinks high in fat, salt or sugar." 

It is currently consulting with consumer and campaign groups, public health experts and industry representatives before opening the consultation to the public.

Current rules on marketing to children stipulate that food and soft drink adverts must not endorse unhealthy eating or lifestyle habits to children, and cannot use promotions, celebrities or licensed characters, or encourage pester power.

CAP said: “Our decision to carry out a public consultation responds, in part, to changes in children’s media habits and evolving advertising techniques.  It also reflects a growing consensus, shared by public health and industry bodies, about the role of advertising self-regulation in helping to bring about a change in the nature and balance of food advertising targeted at children.”   

Earlier this month the European Heart Network (EHN) and University of Liverpool called on the EU​ to review and strengthen its Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMS) and bring it in line with best practice, "rather than relying on voluntary, non-enforceable codes of conduct written by industry operators for industry operators.” 

The current directive was weakened by the fact it did not clearly define key notions such as children’s programming and HSSF foods and was voluntary, it said.

Last year CAP commissioned a review of the literature on online food and drink advertising to children from independent research firm Family Kids & Youth. The review found that while research into the effects of online advertising on children had been limited, less healthy foods were marketed online through social media or apps.

Ahead of specific guidance being issues, CAP encouraged companies to clearly label an advergame (online advert) as such if there was any doubt as to whether its marketing nature was recognisable to children.

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