Child watching TV

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Health campaigners have hit out at plans to delay the ban on advertising products high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS).

The government had previously stated that a 9pm TV and on-demand watershed for HFSS products, and restrictions on paid-for HFSS advertising online, would come into force next year.

But health chiefs have now announced the restrictions will be delayed until 1 October 2025, sparking outrage from campaigners.

Katharine Jenner, director of the Obesity Health Alliance, described the delay as a shocking move with no valid justification.

“This is the action of a government that seems to care more about its own short-term political health than the longer-term health of children,” she said. “We urge Rishi Sunak to reverse this attack on child health and to shorten the delay to 2024, to at least give children a better chance to grow up healthy.”

The news was “hugely disappointing”, according to Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of Action on Sugar and Action on Salt.

“The only people to benefit from this baseless delay are multinational food companies,” he said. “This policy could reduce the number of children living with obesity by 20,000 over a few years.” 

And Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK, stated that the delay would hit lower-income households the hardest.

“Delaying action will disproportionately impact the lowest income households, who have less access to healthy food and are targeted by a greater amount of advertising of unhealthy food.”

Some responses have been more positive, however, particularly among marketing and food trade bodies who have opposed the idea of an advertising ban.

Stephen Woodford, chief executive of the Advertising Association, said the trade group continued to believe restrictions would do nothing to tackle obesity.

“Addressing the challenges of obesity in this country require well-funded, multi-faceted programmes focused on making changes in local communities, not population-wide and non-targeted approaches like advertising bans,” he explained.

FDF chief scientist Kate Halliwell said the federation welcomed the recognition by government of the challenging circumstances currently faced by industry, and the need for an appropriate implementation period.

”We believe that alongside ongoing reformulation of everyday foods, evidence based and targeted approaches would be more effective to improve diets and reduce obesity,” she added. “We look forward to continuing our work with government to play our part.”