Labour backs 9pm ads watershed for junk food

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

A 9pm watershed on the advertising of food and drink high in fat, salt and sugar is planned by Labour (picture courtesy of Lucia)
A 9pm watershed on the advertising of food and drink high in fat, salt and sugar is planned by Labour (picture courtesy of Lucia)

Related tags Public health Nutrition

Labour is planning to impose a 9pm watershed on the advertising of food and drink high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS)­ if it wins power in the May 7 general election, according to leaked reports ahead of a major policy announcement next week.

The precise details of Labour’s plans to curb soaring levels of obesity in the UK will be revealed when it publishes its long-awaited public health policy paper next week, which will form a central part of its election manifesto.

A spokeswoman for shadow public health secretary Luciana Berger refused to say whether or not the leaked information was accurate when approached for comment today (January 9), although she did confirm the aim was to publish the policy document next week.

Advertisers ‘very disappointed’

“This may not be an accurate leak from the Labour Party, but if it is true advertisers will quite rightly be very disappointed,”​ said Ian Twinn, director of public affairs for the UK advertising body ISBA.

“There is no evidence to suggest that proposals like these would achieve Labour’s policy objectives which is to help tackle obesity.”

At a panel debate on obesity at last year’s Food Matters Live show in London, Debbie Abrahams, parliamentary private secretary to shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, disclosed that Labour was considering tougher regulation​ of the food and drink industry.

“There is a lot more we must be doing around food labelling, but also around the potential for regulation of sugar, fat and salt for foods particularly being marketed at children,”​ said Abrahams.

A 9pm watershed on advertising foods to children is among a raft of measures called for by food campaigners.

Malcolm Clark, co-ordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign, part of Sustain, told last month that he wanted to see much tougher controls on the industry.

‘Consistent rules’

“It’s about ensuring that the rules governing the marketing of HFSS products are across all forms of media and packaging and the nutritional profiling model are there to provide consistent rules,”​ said Clark.

Clark was commenting on the failure of the industry members of the Public Health Responsibility Deal (PHRD) Food and Drink Network to agree voluntary measures for tighter controls on the marketing of HFSS foods.

Chair of the Network, Dr Susan Jebb, said: “I am personally very disappointed we have not made greater progress in this area and I recognise that we may need to look towards other policy options to achieve the shift in the promotional environment to support healthier food and drink choices.”

While the PHRD has done much to get manufacturers and retailers to reformulate food and drink products to reduce levels of salt, fat and sugar, it’s vocal critics have long argued that only tough regulation – including taxes on HFSS – would be effective in curbing the obesity epidemic.

Most mainstream political parties have argued against the imposition of fat and sugars taxes, however, claiming they would disproportionately hit poorer people.





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