It was announced that the 9pm watershed ban on TV and online advertising for foods high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) would be delayed to 1 October 2025 from the originally planned 2023/24 go live date.
Katharine Jenner, director of the Obesity Health Alliance, claimed the Government had no valid justification to push back the ban.
“A new study published yesterday (8 December) in the BMJ [British Medical Journal] shows that cases of type 2 diabetes in young adults have risen faster in Britain than anywhere else in the world. What other evidence does our Prime Minister need not to delay implementing key obesity policies?" said Jenner.
“Research shows restricting junk food adverts on TV and online would significantly reduce the number of children with excess weight. This is the action of a government that seems to care more about its own short-term political health than the longer-term health of children.”
Jenner urged Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to shorten the delay to 2024.
Food and Drink Federation chief scientist Kate Halliwell saw the decision to delay the ban in a more positive light.
She said: "We welcome the recognition by Government of the challenging circumstances currently faced by industry and the need for an appropriate implementation period.
“However, we still question whether this policy should be brought forward at all, given it is estimated to reduce calorie intakes by only 2 calories per day – the equivalent of half a Smartie.
“We believe that alongside ongoing reformulation of everyday foods, evidence based and targeted approaches would be more effective to improve diets and reduce obesity. We look forward to continuing our work with government to play our part.”
However, Action on Salt and Action on Sugar chairman Professor Graham MacGregor shared Jenner’s sentiments and said the delay went against ‘overwhelming’ evidence and public support for the watershed ban. He then went on to hit out at food and drink manufacturers producing the types of products that would be affected by the ban.
“The only people to benefit from this baseless delay are the multinational food companies who are used to making huge profits from their unhealthy products and do not have a vested interest in the nation’s health,” he claimed.
“This has been orchestrated by a government which clearly has no intention of levelling up or committing to its promises in protecting the nation’s health from the devastating effects of unhealthy diets high in saturated fat, salt and sugar.”
Diabetes UK chief executive Chris Askew said delaying action on junk food ads would have a disproportionately impact the lowest income households that have less access to healthy food and are “targeted by a greater amount of advertising of unhealthy foods”.
He added: “The Government’s shameful decision to delay these vital measures means that people living in the most deprived areas will continue to be pushed towards unhealthy options, further entrenching the health inequalities that exist in rates of type 2 diabetes and obesity in England.”