New statutory restrictions on advertising unhealthy food and drink

In 2020, a strategy was set out by the UK Government to tackle obesity in the UK. As such, the UK Government decided to expediate legislation which would impose restrictions on advertising food and drink products that are high in fact, salt or sugar (“HFSS”).

Ofcom published a statement on 10 July 2023 to set out the outcome of its consultation process in respect of proposals to implement new statutory restrictions on the advertising and sponsorship of HFSS products (“New Restrictions”). This consultation process took place between 21 February 2023 and 21 April 2023. The New Restrictions are pursuant to the Health and Care Act 2022 amended by the Communication Act 2003.

The New Restrictions will apply to advertising on Ofcom-regulated TV, on on-demand programme services and also online. Ofcom is the statutory regulator with the responsibility of implementing and enforcing the new restrictions.

With effect from 1 October 2025:

  • TV services and on-demand programme services will be prohibited from including advertising and sponsorship for HFFS products between 5:30am and 9:00pm; and
  • Online paid-for advertising for HFSS products, aimed at UK users, will be prohibited at all times.

These New Restrictions were initially scheduled to come into force on 1 January 2024, but have now been pushed back to 1 October 2025.

Ofcom have also decided to designate the Advertising Standards Agency as a co-regulator for the online advertising restrictions for HFSS products. There will also be amendments to the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice and the Broadcasting Code to reflect the New Restrictions that apply to advertising and sponsorship on TV.

However, there are some exceptions to the New Restrictions:

• These restrictions shall not apply to advertising by or on behalf of small or medium enterprises (“SMEs”) who are involved in, or who are associated with, the sale or production of food and drink.
• In respect of online advertising restrictions, this will not apply to business to business advertisements which are not intended to be accessed principally by persons in the UK

If you have any questions regarding this article, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Commercial team.

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