Boris Johnson to ban junk food ads before 9pm watershed in bid to battle Covid-19 obesity risk

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JUNK food ads will be banned online and before TV’s 9pm watershed under Boris Johnson’s radical plan to battle obesity, it emerged last night.

Shops could also be barred from promoting unhealthy food and drink products in store.

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The PM is planning to unveil the sweeping new restrictions on the marketing of high-fat and sugary foods as part of his blueprint for making Brits leaner following evidence obese people are more likely to die from coronavirus.

He will unveil the Government’s new obesity strategy on Monday.

The new curbs are expected to cover a wide range of products, including chocolate, sweets, milkshakes and even yoghurt drinks.

Ads on fast food chains could also be included in the drastic new restrictions on advertising.

Even products such as mayonnaise and ketchup could be targeted, according to industry sources.

The radical plans contrast with the PM’s previous opposition to nanny state interventions but in May he said he had undergone a “damascene conversion” following his own brush with death after catching coronavirus, which disproportionately affects overweight men.

He said he the coronavirus pandemic had convinced him that urgent action was needed to tackle Britain’s obesity crisis.

But The Sun revealed last week that he had drawn a red line at fresh sugar taxes as he does not want to people to feel “bullied” into eating healthier.

Instead he and Health Secretary Matt Hancock hope a ban on online adverts and pre-9pm TV ads will change people’s shopping and eating habits. Sources said the obesity strategy – to be unveiled on Monday – will be about “helping people make better choices”.

Boris is said to have been persuaded by medical and nutritional advisers that tackling obesity is 80 per cent diet and 20 per cent exercise.

He is said to be in favour of changing people’s diets through public health campaigns and a crackdown on supermarket promotions of unhealthy food.

As well as ad bans for junk food, shops will be prevented from offering deals such as buy one, get one free on healthy food.

And there is also likely to be a ban on products such as sweets, crisps and chocolates being on sale at supermarket checkouts, which customers tend to by on the whim.

But the plans were slammed by think tanks and industry leaders last night.
The Adam Smith Institute warned that further restrictions on what can be advertised on TV are not only ineffective but would cut even more funding from the nation’s favourite shows.

Daniel Pryor from the Institute blasted: “Politicians might find TV ads annoying, but the revenues they generate help fund our favourite shows. Banning junk food ads before watershed would give us worse TV and do nothing to improve the nation’s health.

 

“A large body of evidence shows that advertising doesn’t brainwash us into buying things we don’t want. Instead it works by boosting specific brands, like encouraging people who fancy a takeaway to choose Wagamama over Nando’s.

“Since there’s no legal definition of junk food, the proposed ban would include virtually all fruit juice, raisins, hummus, most cheeses and more.

“Public health nannies might want to treat us all like brainwashed children, but we should reject them and their half-baked nonsense.”

Stephen Woodford, Chief Executive, Advertising Association, said: “Speculation that the Government intends to introduce bans on high fat, salt & sugar (HFSS) advertising would be in direct conflict with its own evidence that such restrictions would have minimal impact on obesity levels.

“These measures, if introduced, would have significant economic impact at a time when the economy is already under strain due to COVID-19, with thousands of jobs under threat across the UK’s media, advertising, food and retail sectors.

“The Government must reconsider any proposals which could damage the recovery, jobs, and people’s livelihoods, just at the very moment everyone is working so hard to recover.”

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