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Junk food ad ban becoming a sham

Loopholes on brand advertising and sponsorship could scupper a UK junk food advertising ban, warn charities Sustain and the National Heart Forum.

In anticipation of the imminent announcement of new rules on junk food advertising from Ofcom, the National Heart Forum and Sustain (the alliance for better food and farming) cautioned MPs today that proposals could be fatally flawed if they do not deal with brand as well as product advertising.

In a briefing note to all MPs highlighting the health and social benefits that would flow from a restriction on TV junk food advertising before 9pm, the two charities also drew attention to the possibility that apparently robust restrictions on junk food ads may not remove commercial pressures on children if Ofcom opts to permit brand advertising and sponsorship. These are adverts where no product appears, or could be simply a logo appearing on a TV programme.

“Ofcom’s draft proposals do not apply to brand advertising. Unless they do, it will leave the door wide open for junk food and drink companies to shift their marketing spend into programme and channel sponsorship, and into the sort of high-impact brand image advertisements we saw on billboards from tobacco companies in the 1990s,? said Jane Landon, deputy chief executive of the National Heart Forum.

“Ofcom clearly recognises the risks of leaving brand advertising unregulated, but it is likely to be under huge pressure from the junk food companies and advertisers to throw them a lifeline. We now hear that Ofcom will permit entire commercial channels to be sponsored.”

“Sponsorship is like any other bit of marketing – it promotes a product to a target audience. If Cadbury’s sponsorship of Coronation Street does not ultimately sell chocolate, then what does it do?? said Richard
Watts, coordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign at Sustain.

Only this week, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown MP said he supported a restriction on junk food advertising up to 9pm as part of a comprehensive range of measure to improve children’s health and well-being.

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