NEWS23 November 2018

Junk food ads to be banned on London transport

FMCG Healthcare Media News Public Sector Travel UK

UK – Advertising of high fat, salt and sugar foods will be banned on the Transport for London (TfL) network from 25 February, Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, has announced.

London underground commuters_crop

The decision to ban junk food out-of-home ads on the city’s transport network follows a public consultation on the issue. The ban covers ads for food and non-alcoholic drinks high in fat, salt and/or sugar that are considered “less healthy” under guidelines set by Public Health England.

The consultation received 1,500 responses from the public, with 82% supporting the proposals, according to the mayor’s office. A survey of 1,000 Londoners conducted by YouGov in May found that 52% supported a ban on all adverts for unhealthy food and drink across TfL stations and transport, compared to 20% who opposed it.

Food and drinks brands, restaurants, takeaways and delivery services will only be allowed to place ads promoting their healthier products under the new rules.

The move is part of the mayor’s wider drive to tackle the issue of child obesity in London. A new taskforce on the issue aims to halve the percentage of children in the capital who are overweight at the start of primary school and obese at the end of primary school by 2030.

Sadiq Khan said: "Child obesity is putting the lives of young Londoners at risk and placing huge pressure on our already strained health service. It’s clear that advertising plays a huge part in the choices we make, whether we realise it or not, and Londoners have shown overwhelming support for a ban on adverts for junk food and drink on our transport network."

The advertising industry was quick to voice its concerns with the proposal. Stephen Woodford, chief executive of the Advertising Association, said: "There is no clear evidence that a ban on high fat, salt and sugar advertising on the TfL out-of-home estate will have a positive effect on reducing childhood obesity rates in London. We all want to see rates of childhood obesity dropping but believe there are far better ways to achieve this goal.

"Not only will this measure fail to achieve the end goal of reducing childhood obesity, it will also damage businesses in our capital and reduce TfL’s income from advertising, with the potential of putting increased pressure on commuters through higher fares."

Meanwhile, Richard Lindsay, director of IPA Director of Legal & Public Affairs at the IPA, said: "Banning ads for all high fat salt sugar (HFSS) products will throw the baby out with the bathwater. It will prevent the advertising of some products which, although classified as HFSS, may actually form part of a balanced diet, and it will include ads for products of interest to adults rather than children.

"The UK’s advertising agencies are, of course, skilled ad creators, but they are also skilled problem-solvers. The mayor might stand a better chance of achieving his objective if he included the UK’s ad agencies in his efforts to solve the problem of childhood obesity."