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Government announce pre-9pm ban on TV junk-food ads and tighter restrictions online

MINISTERS must do more to protect children’s health, Labour and campaigners warned today after the government announced a pre-9pm ban on TV junk-food advertising and tighter restrictions online.

The rules, which will come into effect next year, prohibit ads promoting most products that are high in fat, salt or sugar.

But campaigners pointed out that the measures fall short of the total ban proposed last year.

The restrictions, branded draconian by the advertising industry, will see a clampdown on ads by big brands on sites such as Facebook and Google, but companies will still be able to show marketing on their own websites and social media accounts.

Firms will be allowed to advertise on TV before the watershed if they do not show banned foods, and online audio is exempt, meaning that fast-food and confectionery ads will remain on radio stations broadcasting over the internet and on podcasts.

The restrictions will also not apply to marketing by companies of fewer than 250 employees, and ads on some goods that are high in fat, salt and sugar but are not viewed as junk foods, such as honey, yeast extracts and avocados, can continue without restrictions.

Official statistics show that a third of children leaving primary school in England are overweight or obese, as are almost two in three adults.

Ministers estimate that young people aged under 16 were exposed to 15 billion junk food adverts online in 2019 alone.

Barbara Crowther of children’s food campaign group Sustain said: “The proposals represent a significant step forward in reducing exposure to a constant stream of unhealthy food and drink advertising.

“However, we remain concerned that the proposals will still allow massive multinational junk-food companies and delivery platforms to run big brand campaigns.

“In short, it’s a very positive step in the right direction, but the journey is far from over.”

Shadow public health minister Alex Norris urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to take more decisive action.

“Labour has pushed for four years for a ban on junk-food advertising, which has been repeatedly kicked into the long grass by ministers,” he charged.

“This ban alone will not be enough. We need a radical obesity strategy in this country that goes further, ensuring families are able to access healthy food, supporting local leisure facilities and tackling child poverty.”

Parliamentary reporter @TrinderMatt

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