Consumer groups and health campaigners have joined forces in calling for a ban of junk food advertising before 9pm, a move that has been staunchly resisted by food industry bodies. 

Which? consumer group and 23 other organisations have written to Ofcom, the UK communications regulator, demanding a watershed on adverts for foods that are high in salt, fat or sugar. Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation, the National Union of Teachers, Diabetes UK and the National Family and Parenting Institute are among the groups that have signed the letter.

Ofcom is currently undertaking a public consultation on this highly controversial issue. The public consultation on proposed junk food advertising restrictions was launched in March.

Food manufacturers and advertisers have urged moderation, hoping to minimise the impact of imminent restrictions.

Food and Drink Federation director of communications Julian Hunt said: “Consumers share our concerns over a 9pm watershed. Even though radical consumer groups have campaigned hard on this, it’s clearly not what they want.
“The food and advertising industries’ proposals put forward to Ofcom this summer share the government’s commitment to focus on young children and advertisements shown during their programme times. Our package will mean no more cartoon characters like Scooby Doo or celebrities such as pop bands like The Spice Girls being used in ads directly targeted at children. It will also mean the end of these ads featuring the latest movie characters or collectable gifts. We think this significant package will be good news for parents,” he concluded.

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However, regulatory body the Food Standards Agency has come out in favour of a 9pm watershed.

Which? chief policy adviser Sue Davies said: “Irresponsible advertising on TV is an uninvited guest in our homes, contributing to the growing national obesity crisis. Without effective action from Ofcom, all efforts to improve the diet and health of children will be undermined.”