Online and social media junk food ads targeting children to be banned

Junk food advertising is to be banned across all children's media to help tackle childhood obesity.

The new rules will ban the advertising of food or drink high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) across all non-broadcast media targeted at under-16s from July 2017.

The decision will bring all media such as print, cinema, online and social into line with the strict regulations that prohibits the advertising of unhealthy food to children on television.

The new restrictions also apply to TV-like content online, such as on video-sharing platforms or 'advergames', if they are directed at or likely to appeal particularly to children.

The roll out reflects how young people's media habits had changed, said the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) said.

The "significant" change would lead to a major reduction in the number of ads for HFSS food and drinks they see, said the organisation, which is responsible for writing and maintaining the UK advertising codes.

Ofcom's latest figures show that young people aged between five and 15 now spend about 15 hours each week online, overtaking the time they spend watching a TV set.

CAP chairman James Best said: "Our tough new rules are a clear demonstration that the ad industry is willing and ready to act on its responsibilities and puts the protection of children at the heart of its work."

Jenny Rosborough, campaign manager at Action on Sugar, called for restrictions to be extended to programmes such as X Factor, which are hugely popular with children but exempt from restrictions because they fall outside children's programming.

Food and Drink Federation director general Ian Wright said the group "fully supported" the new rules.

Over a fifth of children in the UK are overweight or obese when they start primary school and a third by the time they reach Year 6.