Last reviewed 30 June 2021

In its response to a consultation which it launched in 2019, the Government has confirmed that it will bring legislation into force at the end of next year to introduce a 9pm watershed for advertisements of foods high in fat, salt and sugar.

The new rules will apply to TV and UK on-demand programmes, as well as restrictions on paid-for advertising of foods high in sugar, fat and salt online, as part of the Government’s ongoing commitment to tackle unhealthy eating habits at source.

The watershed will apply from 9pm to 5.30am, meaning adverts for these foods can only be shown during these times.

A total of 79% of respondents to the consultation supported a 9pm cut-off point on TV, while 74% agreed with the introduction of further advertising restrictions online for these foods.

Public Health Minister, Jo Churchill, said: “We are committed to improving the health of our children and tackling obesity. The content youngsters see can have an impact on the choices they make and habits they form. With children spending more time online it is vital we act to protect them from unhealthy advertising.”

In order to keep the restrictions proportional, she explained, the new regulations will apply to food and drink products of most concern to childhood obesity and will ensure the healthiest in each category will be able to continue to advertise.

This approach means that foods such as honey, olive oil, avocados and Marmite are excluded from the restrictions.

Recognising that small and medium-sized companies may be some of the hardest hit by the pandemic, and rely on online media as the sole way to communicate with their customers, the restrictions will only apply to businesses with 250 or more employees.

Online restrictions will be limited to paid-for advertising, ensuring brands can continue to advertise within “owned media” spaces online; such as a brand’s own blog, website, app or social media page.

The TV and online restrictions could, the Government has calculated, remove up to 7.2 billion calories from children’s diets per year in the UK which, over the coming years, could reduce the number of obese children by more than 20,000.

See GOV.UK for more details.