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Action on Salt

Advertising and marketing restrictions

In Chapter 2 of the Government’s Childhood Obesity Plan, a 9pm watershed on TV and online was proposed to help stop the flood of unhealthy advertising that both children and adults see each day. After consulting on this proposal in 2019 and considering the feedback, the Governmentwent further by proposing a total online advertising ban in their Tackling Obesity strategy. In May 2021, the Queen’s Speech (where the Government announce their legislative priorities for the coming year) revealed that the Government would go ahead with a 9pm watershed on TV and a total online ban in 2022 for foods and drinks considered high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS). 

See our input to Government’s consultations on the proposed advertising and marketing restrictions: 

  • Introducing further advertising restrictions of products high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) on TV and online 

Would this policy ban all unhealthy products from being advertised and marketed? 

  1. No.  As outlined in the consultations, these proposals only covers HFSS food and drink within categories included in the sugar reduction programme, the calorie reduction programme and the Soft Drinks Industry Levy:
  • Breakfast cereals 
  • Yogurts and fromage frais 
  • Chocolate confectionery 
  • Ice cream, lollies, sorbets 
  • Puddings 
  • Sweet spreads and sauces 
  • Sweet confectionery 
  • Biscuits 
  • Cakes 
  • Morning goods 
  • Juices and milk-based drinks 
  • Ready meals 
  • Breaded and battered products 
  • Meal centres 
  • Chips and potato products 
  • Garlic/cheesy bread 
  • Crisps and savoury snacks 
  • Pizza 
  • Pastry products 
  • Sandwiches 
  • Sugar-sweetened drinks 

This omits many unhealthy product categories high in salt and calories, such as cheese, processed meat and salty snacks.  

Additionally, we are concerned that there will likely be many exceptions and loopholes for businesses in the final policy. 

How could this measure encourage reformulation? 

Products would not be allowed to advertise if they are classed as HFSS by the Nutrient Profiling Model (NPM). The NPM gives all products an overall score based on the levels of salt, sugar, saturated fat and calories against healthier elements such as fibre, protein and fruit/vegetable content. Products that have more salt, sugar and/or calories compared to the healthier elements would get a higher score and if that score is above a specified threshold then the product cannot be advertised.  

This is positive for food companies and health: by simply reducing the less healthy aspects of their products, such as the salt and sugar levels, companies can continue to advertise their products. This means that we will see most of the same products being advertised as usual, but when we buy them in the supermarket, they will be healthier – a big win for public health. Rather than a ‘ban’, this is actually a policy that could encourage reformulation. 

 Does Action on Salt support this proposal? 

  1. Yes. However, it is just a first step in stopping the flood of unhealthy advertising we see each day. Ideally, we would like to see only the healthier products being advertised and marketed. We hope that this policy will be put in place as promised in 2022 and evaluated to test how effective it is, and then expanded to cover a much more comprehensive range of food and drinks.
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