Leading food and drink firms hit back at planned Government junk food advert ban

Food and beverage companies have reversed proposals to ban online advertising for products high in salt, sugar and fat.

The Department of Health and Social Care launched a six-week consultation earlier this month to try to understand the impact of the introduction of a total ban on advertising junk food online.

But in a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson posted on social media on Sunday, leaders of some of the country’s largest corporations labeled it a “disproportionate proposal with an impossibly short time frame” for response.

The letter, signed by more than 800 food and drink manufacturers and 3,000 UK brands, including bosses from Mars, Britvic, Unilever and Kellogg’s, claimed the evidence “was lacking in detail and efficacy”.

It added: “The UK government is rightly committed to evidence-based policy-making. However, the scientific basis for these proposals is lacking in both detail and effectiveness.

In addition, there is still no agreed definition of which foods the government will include in these proposals. They are so broad that they even capture family favorites, from chocolate to peanut butter to sausage rolls. “

The letter, which is also signed by the Advertising Association and UK Hospitality, said industries were “shocked” that the proposals would limit how manufacturers describe products on their website.

It added, “We are shocked that the proposed advertising restrictions will monitor how manufacturers describe their products on their own websites and social media outlets, despite previous assurances that the government had no interest in this.

“In addition, these limitations are disproportionately impacting SMEs, which make up 96 percent of our industry.”

The letter said the industry shared a desire to “drive a step change in obesity rates,” but said it was unable to respond to the consultation in time with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and Brexit on the horizon.
It added, “Food and beverage manufacturers have played an indispensable role in feeding the nation during the Covid-19 crisis.

“The sheer amount of critical work food companies will face in the coming weeks means that we simply cannot give this consultation the resources it deserves and requires at this point. Something will have to give. “

The letter called for an extension of the consultation closing date and a meeting with Mr. Johnson and the number 10 health policy team.