Health chiefs have come under fire for launching a consultation on advertising of foods high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS) while the industry faces Brexit.

Views are being sought on the introduction of further restrictions on advertising HFSS foods, including the potential for a 9pm watershed ban on advertising around TV programmes, online streaming sites and social media.

Launching the consultation, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport said ads for sugary and fatty foods were more commonly shown to children than any other category.

“Today the government has set out options to tighten advertising restrictions to limit children’s exposure to unhealthy foods across the media they engage with the most,” they stated.

But the timing of the consultation has been attacked by the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), which has previously criticised the DHSC for launching a consultation on promotions while food businesses faced uncertainty over Brexit.

“Again, this suggests the Department of Health and Social Care has failed to notice the UK is still not out of the Brexit logjam, nor that food and drink companies are battling to ensure the nation is fed,” said FDF chief operating officer Tim Rycroft.

He added that the consultation was addressing important matters, but should have been delayed until a no-deal Brexit was completely out of the question, and that the FDF would not be responding to the consultation unless there was a “material change to Brexit prospects”.

 “Until a delay to the 29 March withdrawal date is agreed by the UK and EU, and Parliament removes that date from the Withdrawal Act, manufacturers will have a total focus on averting the catastrophe of a no-deal Brexit, avoiding food shortages and keeping prices rises to a minimum,” he said.