Small businesses such as fish and chip shops will be exempt from a ban on advertising food high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS), the government has announced today.
As part of its proposals to tackle obesity, the government has announced that a ban on "unhealthy food" adverts online and before the 9pm television watershed will come into force at the beginning of 2023.
However, the restrictions will not affect small businesses with 250 employees or less, which will be able to continue advertising.
The government recognises these companies may be some of the hardest hit by the pandemic and rely on online media as the sole way to communicate with their customers.
The new rules apply to TV and UK on-demand programmes from 9pm to 5.30am, meaning HFSS adverts can only be shown during these times.
Online restrictions will be limited to paid-for advertising, ensuring brands can continue to advertise within ‘owned media’ spaces online, such as a brand's own blog, website, app or social media page.
A total of 79% of public consultation respondents supported a 9pm watershed on TV while 74% agreed with the introduction of further HFSS advertising restrictions online.
In order to keep the restrictions proportional, these new regulations will apply to food and drink products "of most concern" to childhood obesity and will ensure the healthiest in each category will be able to continue to advertise. This approach means foods such as honey, olive oil, avocados and marmite are excluded from the restrictions.
Public health minister Jo Churchill, said: “We are committed to improving the health of our children and tackling obesity. The content youngsters see can have an impact on the choices they make and habits they form. With children spending more time online it is vital we act to protect them from unhealthy advertising.
“These measures form another key part of our strategy to get the nation fitter and healthier by giving them the chance to make more informed decisions when it comes to food. We need to take urgent action to level up health inequalities. This action on advertising will help to wipe billions off the national calorie count and give our children a fair chance of a healthy lifestyle.”
The government believes the TV and online restrictions could remove up to 7.2 billion calories from children’s diets per year in the UK which, over the coming years, could reduce the number of obese children by more than 20,000.