The UK government has announced a ban on the advertising of foods high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS) being shown on TV and online before 9pm. This is an important step forward in protecting children from the effects of junk food marketing. The evidence that unhealthy food marketing influences children’s food choices is strong yet worldwide governments have been hesitant to step in and protect children.
As well, the government plans to hold a short consultation on how to introduce a total advertising restriction online of HFSS foods. The announcement also includes legislating to end the promotion of HFSS foods such as buy one get one free, and the placement of these foods in prominent locations intended to encourage purchasing, both online and in physical stores in England.
These announcements, described as in response to a wake-up call due to COVID-19, form part of a plan to address obesity, through helping people to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. The advertising restrictions are planned to come into effect at the end of 2022.
Our study Advertising to children initiatives have not reduced unhealthy food advertising on Australian television published in 2017 found Australian children continue to be exposed to junk food advertising on television. We call on the Australian Government to follow the lead of the United Kingdom.