Further advertising restrictions for products high in fat, salt and sugar

10 Jun 2019

This is a summary of the key questions from this consultation. To read the full response please download the pdf. 


The Government proposes that any further advertising restrictions apply to broadcast TV and online. Do you think that any further advertising restrictions should be applied to other types of media in addition to broadcast TV and online?

Cinema; Radio; Print; Outdoor/Direct marketing

We would want this to include sponsorship, for example of events or sports programmes aimed at children or where children are likely to be a significant part of the audience.

This should include sponsorship of television programmes, seasons or time periods, which are currently regulated separately by Ofcom. Removing this loophole will prevent the inclusion of HFSS advertising directly around programmes in idents, which are not restricted as advertising currently is.

The experience of restrictions on tobacco (including sports sponsorship for example) shows that a comprehensive approach is both possible and a key part of a comprehensive approach.

Please explain why you think that we should extend additional advertising restrictions to these types of media. (Drop down list, please select all that apply)

a) Will reduce children’s exposure to HFSS advertising and in turn reduce their calorie intake

b) Will drive further reformulation of products

e) Reduces risk of displacing advertising spend

f) Easy for advertisers and regulators to understand

g) Easy for parents and guardians to understand 

The Government proposes that any additional advertising restrictions apply to food and drink products in Public Health England’s sugar and calorie reduction programmes, and the Soft Drink Industry Levy, using the NPM 2004/5 to define what products are HFSS. Do you agree or disagree with this proposal?


The NPM is well established and already used in relation to advertising restrictions, meaning it is well understood by marketers/industry and has a clear evidence base. However, we would like to see the updated version of the NPM (reviewed in 2018) used as soon as is possible, as this takes into account more recent evidence, in particular in relation to free sugars.

Using the (preferably updated) NPM also ensures consistency between advertising formats, and therefore reduces the risk of some displacement of advertising spend.

The NPM restrictions should apply to all HFSS food and drink shown in advertising. The restrictions should be expanded to include delivery services who deliver foods which are HFSS. If they feature an item of food in their advertising, they must be able to demonstrate its NPM score.

Please select your preferred option for potential further broadcast restrictions.

Option 1 - Introduce a 9pm – 5:30am watershed on broadcast TV

Please select the reason/s for your choice, providing supporting evidence for your answer. 

a)  Will reduce children’s exposure to HFSS advertising and in turn reduce their calorie intake

b)  Will drive further reformulation of products 

f)   Easy to implement

g)  Easy for advertisers and regulators to understand

h)  Easy for parents and guardians to understand

This option would align with the current practice but still encourage reformulation in order that manufacturers could take their products out of scope. A watershed to protect children from unsuitable advertising or broadcast content is already well established and understood by broadcasters and the public. An Obesity Health Alliance/You Gov national public poll in February 2019 revealed that 72% of adults support the introduction of a 9pm watershed on TV and 70% support similar online [i].

In the UK, evidence presented at the Health and Social Care Committee’s Childhood Obesity Inquiry [ii] highlighted the association between HFSS marketing and immediate snack food consumption, greater intake of junk food overall, increased food intake that is not compensated for at later eating occasions and greater body weight.

i - You Gov poll, 2038 adults, 12-13 February 2019, commissioned by Obesity Health Alliance http://obesityhealthalliance.org.uk/2019/02/28/protect-children-junk-food-advertising-say-health-experts-parents-agree/

ii - Boyland, Emma (2018) Written submission from Dr Emma Boyland, University of Liverpool COY0006

If you selected option 1, the government proposes an exemption for when there are low child audiences. Should this exemption apply to channels or programmes? Please explain your answer.

Programmes. We feel that applying this to only channels may miss programmes that children watch on channels not usually associated with them, which could risk children being inadvertently being exposed to advertising of HFSS foods and drinks not meant for them. The Kantar analysis commissioned to inform this consultation states that exempting channels with an average weekly (3min) reach of children below 1% would exempt the vast majority of TV channels including in their analysis – 207 out of 310. It seems unlikely that all these channels do not include individual programmes that would exceed the 1% threshold across their programming.

Should government pursue this approach, we would expect a comprehensive analysis of which channels and programmes would be exempted, and an explanation of how changes in viewership would be monitored going forward to ensure exemptions remained up to date.

If you selected option 1, do you agree that 1% of the total child audience (around 90,000 children) is the appropriate level at which programmes or channels should be exempted? Please explain your answer.

No. Would suggest a lower limit, as close to zero as possible. 90,000 children is still a significant number, and because of the large number of channels, many with relatively modest audiences, it is likely that 90,000 children would represent a significant proportion of the viewership of some channels.

BARB data obtained by Cancer Research UK (i) covers the average number of child viewers (watching a channel for more than 3 minutes continuously) across 480 channels during one week in March 2019. Just 75 of those channels would meet the threshold for 1% average child viewers (using the BARB March 2019 child universe figures). Around 16 of those 70 are bespoke children’s channels, meaning they are already subject to HFSS advertising restrictions. Crucially over 400 channels would fall below 1% threshold, and thus would be exempt from any proposed new restrictions. Around 132 of these of these channels have over 1,000 child viewers (which is the lowest audience number counted by BARB). The number of child viewers across these 128 channels ranges from 4,000 to 93,000 with over a third of the channels having more than 50,000 child viewers a week. The total number of child viewing occasions across these channels across one week is over five million (5,260,000). This represent a very significant loophole and would mean many children viewing advertising for unhealthy food and drink.

i - BARB channel-level data for 25 March 2019 to 31 March 2019, using a similar methodology as outlined in the Impact Assessment. Dataset submitted by Cancer Research UK as an Appendix to their response. The March 2019 BARB child universe means the 1% threshold would be 94k rounded to nearest 1k