Responding to the announcement of the new UK Government’s obesity strategy, Phil Smith, Director General of the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers said:

“We are deeply disappointed by the Prime Minister’s announcement today. It rides roughshod over the evidence and is a slap in the face for food and drink manufacturers, the advertising sector and small business. Obesity is undoubtedly a serious public health issue. COVID-19 sets in stark relief the impact of obesity on other conditions and the NHS. But the public deserve better. They deserve a Government response which is rooted in the evidence and addresses the complex, multi-factorial causes of obesity. Yet this, the third Obesity Strategy in recent years, has been driven by the health lobby and represents a missed opportunity.

“In 2019, the Government’s own impact assessment, as acknowledged by Professor Tam Fry of the National Obesity Forum, showed ‘scant evidence’* for a TV watershed, while driving a coach and horses through the funding model for commercial broadcasting in the UK and risking jobs in every constituency of the country - for a gain of 1.7 calories* per child per day, the equivalent of half a smartie. The current rules on advertising are comprehensive, effective, evidence-based and proportionate and apply wherever you may see ads, whether on TV, in the street or on public transport. They apply online and in social media. Enforcement of these regulations is overseen by the Advertising Standards Authority and sets a global standard. Advertising exposure to HFSS adverts have reduced by 70% in the past decade, as obesity rates have steadily risen.

“This announcement cuts the legs out from the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme, will cost families more at the checkout, denies small businesses the targeted local online advertising on which they now rely and risks jobs at a time when government has elsewhere shown them support. We will be taking the time alongside our members to study the detail of the proposed consultations, but fundamentally reject the premise on which this announcement has been made.”


1. Transcript of Tam Fry on the Today Programme - 24 July 2020

Nick Robinson

Now not enough you say overall. Let's take the measures individually. What esidence, what evidence, I'm sorry, is there that banning ads for junk food will work. What we do know is that it will rob the advertising industry of hundreds of millions of pounds.


Tam Fry

The evidence is a bit scanty and in fact the government itself admits that the number of calories consumed will be fairly minimal per day but there are a huge numbers of papers being written by behavioural scientists who say that the association between glossy ads, particularly when shown to children, and children's eating behaviour, is very remarked. And it's got to be, there hasn't been a ban like this, but it's got to be given a try, and if after a period of time it's shown not to be shown to be so effective, maybe it'll be stopped and remember also [interruption].


Nick Robinson

And yet, to do something on the basis of what you call scanty evidence when a House of Lords Select Committee said it will undermine the funding model of commercial broadcasting in the United Kingdom, that's quite a risk to take with an important industry and a lot of people's jobs'


Tam Fry

It is indeed a risk but the problem is that the consequence of obesity is so great that risks and daring measures have to be put in place. It was only two years ago that Jeremy Hunt who was then Health Secretary said we have to be draconian with what we do because the risk is a national emergency and I think everyone fully understands that the Government is doing something to get people to bring down their weight prior to a possible next spike.'

2. DHSC impacts assessments on price promotions, location promotions and DCMS impact assessment on further advertising restrictions.

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Written 27th July 2020
By Abi Gibbons