Charities warn MPs about loophole in junk food ad debate
LONDON - Proposals for restrictions on the marketing of junk food to children could be 'fatally flawed' if MPs do not deal with brand as well as product advertising, according to the charities National Heart Forum and Sustain.
The National Heart Forum and Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming, have warned MPs that because Ofcom's proposals do not apply to brand advertising where no products are shown, it gives junk food and drink companies the freedom to promote their brands in both spot advertisements and programme sponsorship credits.
The charities say that when Ofcom makes its final decision it is "vital" that it closes the potential loophole and that regulations are clear and unambiguous.
They point to Cadbury's sponsorship of 'Coronation Street' as one example. Ofcom has developed three potential packages for regulating food and drink advertising to children, including restrictions on foods high in fat, salt and sugar, timing restrictions on all food and drink products and volume-based restrictions on all food and drink products.
Richard Watts, coordinator of the Children's Food Campaign at Sustain, added: "We now hear that Ofcom will permit entire commercial channels to be sponsored. Sponsorship is like any other bit of marketing -- it promotes a product to a target audience. If Cadbury's sponsorship of 'Coronation Street' does not ultimately sell chocolate then what does it do?"
A fourth option has also been offered, submitted by industry trade bodies such as the Advertising Association, which proposes a ban on food and drink advertising on terrestrial channels at times when children are likely to be watching television. It also calls for a restriction on junk food advertising on children's satellite, digital and cable channels.
Jane Landon, deputy chief executive of the National Heart Forum, said: "Ofcom's draft proposals do not apply to brand advertising. Unless they do, it will leave the door wide open for junk food and drink companies to shift their marketing spend into programme and channel sponsorship, and into the sort of high-impact brand image advertisements we saw on billboards from tobacco companies in the 1990s."
If you have an opinion on this or any other issue raised on Brand Republic, join the debate in the Forum.
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