A new consultation has been launched on proposals to ban online adverts for foods high in fat, sugar and salt in the UK to tackle the obesity crisis and get the nation fit and healthy.
Research shows children are exposed to over 15 billion adverts for products high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) 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 eat 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 and industry stakeholders to understand the impact and challenges of introducing a total ban on the advertising of these products online, to help people live healthier lives and tackle childhood obesity.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:
Public Health Minister Jo Churchill said:
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.
Today’s announcement is part of a raft of measures in the government’s strategy to tackle obesity and get the nation fit and healthy.
Obesity is one of the biggest health crises the country faces. 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 £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.