Ads for junk food and drink targeted at children are to be banned from the internet in a bid to combat the obesity epidemic.
Ads for foods high in sugar, fat and salt will be banned from all media aimed at children and content with at least a quarter of viewers under 16 from July of next year and will affect content on services such as YouTube.
Promotions, licensed characters and celebrities popular with children will also not be allowed in ads for products high in fat,sugar and salt (HFSS).
Research from Ofcom shows five to 15 year olds are spending around 15 hours each week online - overtaking time spent watching TV for the first time. The regulations will apply in media targeted at under-16s and come into effect on July 1, 2017, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has announced.
It follows a full public consultation by CAP, the industry regulator for all advertising in the UK that appears in any media except on TV and radio . A third of children are overweight or obese, and are in turn more likely to become obese adults and have a higher risk of morbidity, disability and premature mortality.
Currently, food and drink deemed unhealthy can be advertised to children in non-broadcast media, unlike television where strict regulation prohibits it through content and scheduling restrictions. The significant change is designed to help protect the health and wellbeing of children.
Tam Fry, chairman of the Child Growth Foundation and spokesperson for the National Obesity Forum, said: “In the battle to tackle child obesity the CAP announcement is starting to tick the right boxes. It isn’t perfect but the tough provisions are welcome if not overdue. Particularly laudable is the recognition children are children up until the age of 16.
“The bonus is the Food and Drink Federation is 100 percent behind the new regulations.”
Meanwhile broadcasters are understood to be working on a proposal that would see healthier foods feature in TV programmes such as Coronation Street. Brands themselves are also working to cut calorie, fat and sugar intake.
Cadbury, for example, has cut the calories in all its singles bars to under 250 and said its marketing is not aimed at children and always looks to give advice on the right portion size.
In 2006, broadcasting regulator Ofcom tightened up rules on junk food advertising around all children’s programming, on all children’s channels and around all programmes that have a “particular appeal” to under 16-year-olds.