Children’s online junk food ads banned

Following a full public consultation, the Committee on Advertising Practice (CAP) has announced new rules banning the advertising of junk food or drink products in children’s media.

The rules, which will apply in media targeted at under-16s and will come into effect on 1 July 2017, will apply across all non-broadcast media including in print, cinema and, crucially, online and in social media.

Bringing the non-broadcast advertising rules in line with the TV rules, the new restrictions will lead to a major reduction in the number of ads for high fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) food and drinks seen by children, also meaning that ads for HFSS products will no longer be allowed to appear around TV-like content online if they are directed at or likely to appeal particularly to children.

James Best, chairman of CAP, said: “Childhood obesity is a serious and complex issue and one that we’re determined to play our part in tackling. These restrictions will significantly reduce the number of ads for high, fat, salt or sugar products seen by children. Our tough new rules are a clear demonstration that the ad industry is willing and ready to act on its responsibilities and puts the protection of children at the heart of its work.”

Critics say the new rules do not go far enough and may not have any impact, pointing to the thousands of children watching TV shows and videos online not specifically targeted at children, which these rules will not cover.

Malcolm Clark, co-ordinator of the Children's Food Campaign, said: "Just as many of the TV programmes most watched by children aren't covered by the rules, so it looks like many of the most popular social media sites won't be either; neither will billboards near schools, or product packaging itself."

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