The UK Government has launched a public consultation on proposals to introduce a 9pm watershed on TV and online adverts for food and drink high in fat, sugar or salt.
The Department of Health and Social Care says that the restrictions have been designed with a view to “encourage industry to develop healthier attitudes”.
But Bill Wirtz, Policy Analyst for the Consumer Choice Centre (CCC), said multiple problems arise with the proposal.
“The first problem is the definition of what constitutes “junk food”. Take this practical example: 100 grams of foie gras has 462 calories, while a Big Mac burger of the same weight has only 257 calories. And yet, we don’t imagine foie gras when we think of junk food,” he said.
“When we start having to cut butter and bacon from advertising is when we notice that we haven’t properly defined what is being meant.
“And if we apply only what most people mean by junk food or fast food, then we’re being thoroughly inconsistent. Also, which ads “target” children? Many TV ads are age-neutral.
“Consumers should be allowed to make their own choices regarding their nutrition. The responsibility of children lies with parents.
“Parents and educators should bank on education and physical activity, which are most effective at curbing childhood obesity. Advertising bans are just patronising.”