William Eichler 24 April 2019

Councils need more powers to tackle junk food adverts, campaigners say

Campaigners have called for local authorities to be given more powers to push back against junk food advertising.

A new report from Food Active and Sustain has found that councils have few powers to restrict advertising of food and drink high in fat, sugar and salt – despite concerns over childhood obesity.

Entitled ‘Taking down junk food ads – how local authorities are taking action on outdoor advertising’, the report recommends that local government be given more powers to impose restrictions to meet local priorities.

This might include measures such as restricting the type of advertising on public telephone boxes which are normally outside their jurisdiction.

‘To the uninitiated it may appear that local authorities are sending out mixed messages by trying to tackle child obesity and yet still allowing these adverts to proliferate,’ said Alex Holt, food and nutrition lead for Food Active.

‘This work has shown the difficulties that local authorities face and highlights the need for much stronger powers to both prevent and to order the immediate removal of adverts for products high in fat, salt and/or sugar in areas with high rates of child obesity.’

The report advised the Government that it should tighten restrictions on in-store advertising, including the area immediately surrounding stores.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) also must have, and use, powers to levy fines on any company that breaks advertising rules more than once in three years, the campaigners said.

It should also consider any area where children congregate to be unsuitable for advertising junk food, not just schools, but also to include nurseries, children’s centres, parks, family attractions and leisure centres.

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