Skip to main content

Action on Sugar

CAP Consultation: food and soft drink advertising to children


13th May 2016

As the pressure for tackling obesity continues, the Commitee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has launched a full public consultation on introducing new rules on the advertising of food and soft drink products in non-broadcast media, including online.

CAP says:
"Our action comes in response to wider societal concerns around childhood obesity, as well as the need to ensure the advertising rules reflect changing media habits amongst young people. 

Our main proposals are to:

  • Introduce a new rule to the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Direct and Promotional Marketing (the CAP Code) to limit where advertising for food and soft drink products high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS products) can be placed in all non-broadcast media, including traditional and online media
  • Explore through consultation whether the new rule should prohibit HFSS product advertising in media targeted at or of particular appeal to children under 12 or under 16
  • Apply the existing rules prohibiting the use of promotions and licensed characters and celebrities popular with children to HFSS product advertising only, allowing more creative ways for healthier foods to be advertised to children"

Read more, here.

Jenny Rosborough, Registered Nutritionist and Campaign Manager at Action on sugar, says: "We are pleased that CAP are now looking into non-broadcast advertising of food and soft drinks to children, especially as 96% of 12-15 year olds spent more time online that watching TV (OFCOM, 2015). All forms of advertising including media and digital platforms to children and adolescents should not be allowed for unhealthy food and drink. There is no justification for banning the advertisements of tobacco when unhealthy food and drink is a leading cause of unpreventable death and disability in the UK. What’s more, displaying confectionery at till points, checkouts and at the end of aisle, including in non-food retail settings, should also be prevented."

The Obesity Health Alliance (which Action on Sugar are part of), said in a joint statement: “Although the proposals in the consultation launched today by the Committee of Advertising Practice acknowledge the need for tighter controls, the overall recommendations fall short of what is needed to tackle the relentless marketing of unhealthy foods and drinks seen by children. Constant exposure to unhealthy food and drinks on TV, radio, the interne, social media, in magazines, and for some even at school makes it very difficult to children and their families to make healthy choices and greatly influences the food they eat. Currently one in five children in England is overweight or obese before they start primary school, and by the time they leave, this increases to almost one in three. Obese children are more likely to be obese as adults, which in turn increases their risk of developing serious health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, cancer, stroke and cardiovascular disease. These conditions have a devastating human impact and also place a huge financial burden on our already stretched health service. This is why we need tough and far reaching action to protect children from harmful advertising and to give them the best possible chance of a healthy future. While we welcome the opportunity for consultation on this area, the Government has rightly declared that childhood obesity is a national emergency so we need a game changing approach to tackle it.”

The Obesity Health Alliance is a coalition of over 30 leading national health charities, campaign groups (including Action on Sugar), and Royal Medical Colleges.

Malcolm Clarke, Children's Food Campaign, says: “The Children’s Food Campaign has long been calling for tougher restrictions on the marketing of less healthy food and drink to children, on TV, online and beyond. We are pleased that the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) finally seems to have accepted the need to take action, and to harmonise the rules across all forms of media, using the current restrictions on TV advertising as a starting point.”
“However, the CAP consultation is a let-down compared to the brave and bold action we saw earlier this year with the Government’s announcement of a sugary drinks levy.  CAP have missed obvious opportunities to make the UK a world leader in putting the protection of children’s health above food and advertising industry profits.  It is disappointing that CAP still feels the need to consult on key policy aspects – such as whether the rules should apply to under 13s or under 16s – where there is already near unanimous consensus on; whilst then refusing to consult on closing some of the loopholes in its existing rules or areas of marketing missing from its current remit."
“There are too many gaps in the detail of the consultation and scope for the rules to be weakened and exemptions given to industry, for us yet to have confidence that the end result will be the necessary leap forward that CAP and industry claim, or that parents and public health advocates want to see."
“Ultimately, if the advertising and food industries are happy with these proposals, then that is sure sign that they do not go far enough.  And CAP’s begrudging acceptance of the need to take even limited action does not augur well for the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) determination to enforce these new rules. The ASA is already failing to get to grips with how manufacturers and agencies are flouting the spirit and often the letter of existing advertising rules.”

For more information contact:
National PR - David Clarke @ Rock PR:
M: 07773 225516 



Return to top