Two-for-one junk food deals and the sale of sweets and chocolates around supermarket checkouts will reportedly be banned under a new government campaign against child obesity.
A 9pm television watershed like the one imposed on sex and violence will be introduced from 2020 by the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, for foods high in sugar and salt, according to the Telegraph.
It said ministers were considering barring the use of cartoon characters and celebrities in promoting junk food; would consult on making it illegal to sell energy drinks to under-16s; and consider outlawing unlimited refills of sugary soft drinks in restaurants. Consultations on restricting and banning certain sales would be launched before the end of 2018.
The newspaper quoted the report as saying: “Where food is placed in shops and how it is promoted can influence the way we shop and it is more common for HFSS (high in fat sugar and salt) products to be placed in the most prominent places in store as well as sold on promotion, eg with ‘buy one get one free’ offers.”
The report comes the day after research was released showing that about half of television food and drink adverts seen by children were for HFSS products or fast food restaurants.
The advertising of junk food products has been banned during children’s programmes since 2007 but a study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies on Thursday found that 70% of TV campaigns for HFSS products or restaurants were screened before the 9pm watershed. Evidence from Ofcom suggests that children spent 64% of their viewing time watching television outside children’s programming times in 2016.
On Wednesday, MPs on the health and social care select committee said cartoon characters should be banned from promoting junk food in order to help reduce childhood obesity rates. Such a ban would affect characters such as Tony the Tiger and the Milky Bar Kid and cartoon characters from blockbuster films.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “We’ve always said that our 2016 plan was the start of the conversation, not the final word on obesity. We are in the process of working up an updated plan and will be in a position to say more shortly.”