Junk food TV adverts ‘to be banned before 9pm’ in Boris Johnson’s obesity fight

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Boris Johnson is preparing to unveil a major obesity crackdown as soon as next week after the overweight Prime Minister almost died of coronavirus.

Reports today suggest the Tory leader will propose a ban on junk food TV adverts before the 9pm watershed as part of a package of reforms.

Other ideas that have been considered include banning sweets and chocolates from being promoted at supermarket entrances and the ends of aisles.

Care Minister Helen Whately today refused to comment on the leaked ideas, but confirmed a crackdown on junk food adverts was being examined.

Boris Johnson told Sky News “I’ve lost about a stone and a bit” by “eating less” and “a lot of exercise”.

And Ms Whately told Sky News: “The Department of Health has indeed been consulting on, for instance, how to protect children from adverts and the impact of adverts of unhealthy food.

“So of course that is one of the policies that would be looked at.”

She said the final strategy will be announced “imminently” and added: “There will be announcements on this shortly.”

Government sources confirmed the strategy could be unveiled as soon as next week.

However, Downing Street has refused to confirm any details of the policy and reports suggest it hasn’t yet been signed off.

Executives who have been briefed on the government plans told the Financial Times they expected it to include the pre-watershed ad ban.

They also expect curbs on in-store promotions, and a ban on online junk food adverts too.

According to The Times, the government will also seek views on publishing calorie counts on restaurant and takeaway menus, and encourage daily exercise.

Tim Rycroft of the Food and Drink Federation told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If these rumours are true, the government’s about to deliver slap in the face to the food industry which has worked so heroically over the last four months to keep the nation fed – at some considerable risk to itself.

“It’s going to ban promotions of food 10 days before the Chancellor launches the biggest food promotion the country’s ever seen.

“It’s going to put enormous costs on the advertising industry and on broadcasters at a time when the economy is in quite a tenuous situation.

“The result of this will be higher prices for shoppers, less choice, less reformulation.”

It is a dramatic change in tune for Boris Johnson – who once railed against what Tories call the ‘Nanny state’.

The PM said a year ago: “It’s time to take a proper look at the continuing creep of the nanny state and the impact it has on hardworking families across Britain.”

He also pledged to review “sin taxes” like the sugar tax – raising the possibility they could be axed.

But he changed his tune after almost dying of coronavirus.

The 5ft 9ins Prime Minister is said to have tipped the scales at 17.5st before contracting the disease and ending up in intensive care.

Since he recovered he has been spotted going for regular exercise in private grounds with his dog Dilyn.

Ms Whately told Sky News: “One thing we know is that obesity increases your risk of serious complications from Covid and of dying from Covid.

“We know as a country that we have a huge obesity challenge.

“One in five children leaving primary school are leaving primary school obese.

“This problem is greater in areas of greater deprivation.

“So it is really really important that we tackle it and we help people make healthier choices so that people aren’t overweight, so people are as healthy as they can be.

“That’s good for individuals and our NHS as well.”

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