Junk food ads ONE USE

Tory lords, alongside food industry and advertising bosses, are calling for the government’s ban on “junk food” advertising to be put back by a full year.

The Grocer has learnt a co-ordinated effort is being made to convince ministers the industry needs more time to prepare for the huge impact of the proposed 9pm watershed for ads of foods high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) and the ban on online junk food ads due to come into force in January next year.

It comes with amendments to the Health and Care Bill due to be debated this week, which will see peers asked to agree to a delay in legislation, amid claims advertisers, including supermarkets, do not have adequate details of which products will be affected to meet the timeframe.

Amendments led by former culture minister Ed Vaizey would see both the timeframe for the ban put back by a year and a so-called sunset clause slapped on the legislation, which would mean it could be scrapped after five years if it is not proven to have had an impact on childhood obesity.

Meanwhile, the government has itself tabled amendments giving itself ‘wiggle room’ for the timing of the Bill to allow more time for Ofcom to prepare for the introduction of the ban.

The proposed delay is being strongly backed by organisations including the FDF, Isba and the Advertising Association, who say ad campaigns can take a year or more from conception to publication or broadcast.

They claim advertisers are already creating ad campaigns for 2023 despite having no guidance on a host of details including what is an ‘identifiable HFSS product’, what constitutes ‘transactional content’, and a clear definition of what is an ‘SME’  with small companies due to be exempt from the ban.

“By tabling its own amendments to allow for a delay, it is clear the government recognises the implementation date of 1 January 2023 for the advertising restrictions is not feasible. But this does not go far enough. Companies are crying out for detailed guidance on the new laws to create their future advertising campaigns,” said FDF UK diet and health policy manager Amy Glass.

“With the average campaign taking up to 12 months to produce, we wholeheartedly support Lord Vaizey’s amendments to allow companies a year once final guidance is published to prepare for the restrictions. This will give our best known brands suitable time to comply and continue to advertise healthier options for shoppers.”

One major supermarket, which has not been named, said a typical campaign would take around seven months from a brief to a campaign going live.

Health campaign groups are urging the government to stick to its original timetable, accusing industry groups of trying to stall the legislation when urgent action was needed to tackle childhood obesity.