Healthy Stadia responds to online junk food advertising consultation

Healthy Stadia responds to online junk food advertising consultation

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has launched a new consultation on the total restriction of online junk food advertising. The consultation was one of the commitments outlined in the Government’s Obesity Strategy launched in July this year.

A new consultation has been launched on proposals to restrict online adverts for foods high in fat, sugar and/or salt (HFSS) in the UK to tackle the obesity crisis and get the nation fit and healthy.

Research shows children in the UK are exposed to over 15 billion adverts for  HFSS products online every year. Evidence shows that exposure to HFSS advertising can affect what children eat and when they eat, both in the short term by increasing the amount of food children consume immediately after being exposed to an advert, and by shaping longer-term food preferences from a young age.

The new consultation, which will run for 6 weeks, will gather views from the public, public health and industry stakeholders to understand the impact and challenges of introducing a total restriction on the advertising of these products online, to help people live healthier lives and tackle childhood obesity.

Further advertising restrictions are widely supported by the public, with polling from 2019 showing that 72% of public support a 9pm watershed on junk food adverts during popular family TV shows and that 70% support a 9pm watershed online.

Almost two-thirds (63%) of adults in England are overweight or living with obesity – and 1 in 3 children leave primary school overweight or obese, with obesity-related illnesses costing the NHS approximately £6 billion a year.

The urgency of tackling obesity has been brought to the fore by evidence of the link to an increased risk from COVID-19. Living with excess weight puts people at greater risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19, with risk growing substantially as body mass index (BMI) increases. Nearly 8% of critically ill patients with COVID-19 in intensive care units have been morbidly obese, compared with 2.9% of the general population.

Matthew Philpott, Executive Director, Healthy Stadia said:

“We are really pleased to see the Government taking action on online junk food advertising. Advertising online, such as through social media, email marketing, website banners and more, is becoming increasingly sophisticated making online spaces, in effect, another obesogenic environment.

“Children now spend more time online than watching television, so it is absolutely right that the Government looks closely at online advertising to prevent children and young people being bombarded with cues to consume unhealthy food and drink products.

“A total restriction on all HFSS adverts on digital media platforms is the simplest way to ensure this and to also guarantee that sport and sporting assets are not being exploited in the digital sphere, whilst demonstrating the Government’s commitment to protecting public health.”

If you agree that you would like to see an end to online junk food advertising, please consider responding to the consultation or sharing your views with Healthy Stadia confidentially. You can also submit your own response to the consultation here by 22nd December.

Michael Viggars

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