Advertised food and drinks are less healthy than those recommended as part of a healthy balanced diet, so we welcome the new rules restricting adverts for food and drinks high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) in children’s non-broadcast media.
The new restrictions apply to media targeted at under-16s and will reduce the number of adverts children see for HFSS products. The changes mean that media such as print, cinema, online and social media have now been brought into line with television. TV-like content online, such as on video-sharing platforms or ‘advergames’, must also adhere to the new rules.
It is a step in the right direction.
Changing media habits have seen children aged 5-15 spending up to 15 hours a week online and measures will now be in place to restrict their exposure to junk food advertising across a wider range of media.
However, the new rules only go part way towards tackling the relentless exposure to junk food faced by our children. It is concerning that there appears to be a number of loopholes, similar to those we have seen in TV advertising.
Firstly, the new restrictions only apply when it can be shown that at least 25% of the audience are children.
Secondly, we know that many younger children access popular social media sites despite the “official” age restrictions, yet the demographics show that the majority of social media users are not children, thereby creating an unnecessary loophole.
Finally, the rules should be extended to include sponsorship of sports and family attractions and marketing communications in schools. There are also no restrictions on using child-friendly brand characters on food and drink packaging.
With one in four children in Scotland overweight or obese we need effective measures to protect our children’s health. These new rules are a welcome implementation, but we must continue to tackle the ‘obesogenic environments’ in which our children are growing up to create environments where healthy lifestyles and healthy choices are made easy and the norm.