The UK’s leading food industry trade association says Government plans to impose a blanket ban on junk food advertising would be a “slap in the face” to manufacturers and retailers “heralded as heroes for feeding the nation during the Covid crisis”. 

The Food and Drink Federation called the Government’s proposals to ban all junk food ads ahead of the 9pm ‘watershed’ “illogical”. 

In a statement issued on Friday, the FDF said: “With household budgets more stretched than ever before, restrictions on promotions and advertising will increase the price of food, reduce consumer choice and threaten jobs and investment across the UK at a precarious economic time.”

Britain’s broadcasters meanwhile claimed they would be forced to make cuts of more than £200 million collectively to their programme budgets if the government pushes ahead with plans expected to be announced this week.

But food campaigners and health experts have welcomed the development, even if some say the measures don’t go far enough. 

“The inclusion of world leading restrictions on junk food advertising is a real game changer”

Food and farming NGO Sustain called the move a “game changer”. Ben Reynolds, the group’s deputy chief executive, said: “The inclusion of world leading restrictions on junk food advertising is a real game changer. Whilst it is not a silver bullet, it has been the missing ingredient in countless Government strategies over the years to tackle obesity. We have been calling for a 9pm watershed on junk food advertising for over a decade. This will help make it easier for people to make healthier choices and remove one of the ways in which every day we’re nudged towards unhealthier options.”

Caroline Cerny from the Obesity Health Alliance, a coalition of more than 40 organisations, described the Government’s plan as a “landmark move”. She told The Guardian: “(it is) taking the spotlight firmly off junk food and ensuring only healthier foods can be promoted on TV, online and in our shops as well as providing more support to help people manage their weight”.

Challenging our ‘too busy to cook culture’
The chef Si King, one half of television’s The Hairy Bikers, told the BBC’s Today show that he supported the ban because it confronted a culture cultivated by food industry marketers “that fast food and convenience foods are aspirational (leading to the idea) that we are too proud to cook because we are too busy”.

But professor Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians, says the Government’s approach is not as all-encompassing as some health professionals had hoped for, since it doesn’t fully take into account that obesity is “the result of biological, genetic and social factors” and not just personal choice.

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