On the 1 July, new advertising regulations came into force banning adverts for foods that are high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) on all children’s media.
The new regulations, announced last December after a consultation, mean that adverts that directly or indirectly promote HFSS products cannot appear in media including websites, social media and paper media aimed at children under 16, or where children under 16 make up at least 25% of the audience.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) confirmed this would include any social media influencers with an audience that is over 25% children, if they are paid to promote HFSS products.
The ASA said if audience data were not available, it would assess the content and context of the advert and the surrounding media to determine whether it was likely to be targeted at children or to attract a significant child audience.
At the same time, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) is relaxing the rules around non-HFSS food and drink brands to allow them to use promotions, licensed characters and celebrities popular with children under 12. Previously, this was banned for all food and drink products except fresh fruit and veg.
This change could mean an increase in marketing of this kind by brands whose products are not HFSS, but were previously banned from doing it.
The Department of Health nutrient profiling model will determine the question of which products are HFSS.
Adverts for unhealthy food have been banned on children’s TV for the past ten years however this ban extends to social media, print and cinemas.
The CAP, said that the move has come in response to changing media habits among young people, with research showing that youngsters aged five to 15 are spending about 15 hours each week online – overtaking time spent watching television. They also respond to wider concerns in society about the public health challenges surrounding childhood obesity and what part the advertising industry can play in helping to change children’s relationship with less healthy foods.
One in three children in the UK between the ages of two and 15 is overweight or obese, according to the UK government’s childhood obesity strategy, published last summer. The report also said that obesity doubles people’s risk of premature death.