The Battle Over Food Advertising To Kids Continues

The Lempert Report
June 01, 2018

The ad industry is taking yet another look at the rules and regulations around how foods that are high in calories, sugars and sodium are advertised on TV and perhaps more importantly on non-broadcast media.

The reason? Look around. Our kids are fat! But wait, this review isn’t happening here in the US – its taking place in the UK. 

Last year, in July 2017, the Advertising Standards Authority introduced tougher rules on how HFSS – the abbreviation for high fat, salt and sugar foods and drink companies targeted under-16 year olds online. Those restrictions mirrored guidelines for television and crucially meant that HFSS products could not be advertised on video-sharing platforms such as YouTube, if the content is directed at children. 

The Committees of Advertising Practice says it wants to establish whether TV guidelines, brought in over a decade ago, are still constructive and that the newer online rules are working.  

This sentiment is echoed by the Food and Drink Federation (FDF),which adds: “FDF welcomes the Committee’s call for evidence around the impact of HFSS food and drink advertising to children. As an industry, we support policy based upon the latest and most compelling evidence. 

The Committees of Advertising Practice says that children’s exposure to HFSS ads on TV has reduced significantly, with exposure to food and soft drink TV ads 40% lower now than it was in 2010. 

Despite this, childhood obesity has continued to rise. In December 2017, University College London found that 25% of children were overweight or obese at age seven, rising to 35% at age 11. And there have been growing calls for tighter regulation of junk food ads, particularly around family shows such as The X Factor. 

So what can WE learn? It’s not just about the ads clearly, but if we want to take obesity seriously for all ages, we really need our food companies in the US and around the world to reformulate and produce more nutritious foods with less sugars, sodium and fats.