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New rules on advertising of 'unhealthy' food and drink to children

Foods high in fat, salt, or sugar will fall under the new regulations – but cheese products won’t.

NEW RULES ARE to be introduced concerning the advertising of food and drink with high fat, salt, and sugar content to children.

Following a recent public consultation, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has agreed adopt the ‘nutrient profiling model’ which will be used to determine whether a food or drink being advertised is one that is high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) and thereby subject to additional regulation by the BAI.

Under the new rules, the advertising of HFSS food and drink will not be permitted in children’s programmes, as defined by the Draft Children’s Commercial Communications Code.

Rules regarding content will also be introduced for HFSS food and drink adverts broadcast outside of children’s programmes but which are directed at children. Such communications shall not:

  • Include celebrities or sports stars
  • Include programme characters eg Peppa Pig
  • Include licensed characters eg characters and personalities from cinema releases
  • Contain health or nutrition claims
  • Include promotional offers

In addition to this, no more than 25 per cent of advertising sold by a broadcaster can be for HFSS food and drink and no more than one in four adverts included in any advertising break can be for such products.

Notably, upon the recommendation of the Department of Health, advertisements and other commercial communications for cheese will be exempted from the new rules. While advertising for cheese products aimed at children will still be allowed, they will include an on-screen message indicating the recommended maximum daily consumption limit for cheese.

Speaking about the new rules, BAI Chief Executive, Michael O’Keeffe said the revised codes has been completed following “one of the most extensive consultations undertaken by the BAI”.

He added that cheese products were not to be removed from the nutrient profiling model due to the “health benefits and the economic and cultural significance” of cheese:

The key area of the draft code which has now been amended is the removal of cheese from the nutrient profiling model. This was done on the basis that the pre-eminent health body in the State, the Department of Health, recommended this approach given the health benefits and the economic and cultural significance of cheese in an Irish context.

Concerns expressed

The Irish Heart Foundation has expressed concerns that the new regulations do not go far enough – saying it was disappointed that the BAI’s proposed Children’s Commercial Communications Code does not ban the advertising of foods such as “French fries, crisps, confectionery, biscuits and sugary sweetened drinks from 6.00am to 9.00pm in order to protect children and young people”.

“I am extremely concerned that a ban on adverts for foods high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS), excludes prime time viewing when on average the most popular time for children (4 to 17 year olds) to watch television is between the hours of 6pm and 9pm and over half of Irish children watch adult programmes without parental supervision. It is clear that the interests of industry have been put before the health of Irish children,” said Maureen Mulvihill, Head of Health Promotion at the Irish Heart Foundation.

The Foundation said commercial interests had ‘taken priority over the health of children’ and that a ban on advertising such foodstuffs up to 9pm, to include primetime family viewing, was the only proportionate response to ensure adequate protection of children’s health.

It said that a pre-watershed ban was also “strongly supported” by 75 per cent of Irish parents.

The rules will come into effect on July 1st 2013 and will apply to all radio and television broadcasters regulated in the Republic of Ireland.

Read: Dairy Council says cheese ban is based on ‘inappropriate’ UK model>
Read: Committee criticisms proposed changes to cheese ads aimed at children>

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