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Guidance set to restrict ads for high-sugar products when children watching TV

Health bosses are updating the system used to calculate which products can be advertised when children are likely to be viewing.

Fewer products containing high levels of sugars are expected to be allowed to be advertised during TV programmes when children are likely to be watching following updated guidance.

Public Health England (PHE) is updating the scoring system used to calculate which food and drink products can be advertised during programming where children make up more than a quarter of the audience in a bid to tackle obesity.

Breakfast cereals, cereal bars, sweetened yoghurts, juices and desserts which are currently permitted to be advertised during family programmes have not passed the new draft guidelines, largely due to their high content of free sugars.

Ofcom and the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) currently use the Nutrient Profiling Model (NPM) 2004/5 to determine which products can appear in adverts, but PHE said this no longer reflects current UK dietary recommendations, especially around sugar and fibre.

We can expect some products which currently pass the model to fail the revised version Dr Alison Tedstone

As part of the Government’s childhood obesity plan, PHE has been tasked with updating the current model and has launched a consultation on the matter.

While the NPM 2004/5 stipulated that 21% of a person’s daily energy intake could come from sugars based on 2,130 calories being consumed, this has now dropped to 5% based on 2,000 calories.

While 24g of fibre was recommended under the previous guidelines, this has now risen to 30g.

PHE said the majority of the 2,620 foods and drinks in the NPM test dataset that did not pass 10 years ago do not pass now, and more have failed the new test by a difference of eight percentage points.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, said: “It is important the Nutrient Profiling Model reflects the most up to date dietary recommendations in order to help support healthier food choices.

“We welcome comments on the modifications to the model.

“Given current UK dietary recommendations advise the population to consume less sugar and more fibre, we can expect some products which currently pass the model to fail the revised version.”

In England, 22.6% of children are overweight or obese when they begin school and 34.2% of children are overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school.

Obesity is associated with poor psychological and emotional health, and obese children are also more likely to become obese adults and have a higher risk of morbidity, disability and premature mortality in adulthood.

PHE said on average children are consuming too much saturated fat, salt and sugars and too little fibre, oily fish and fruit and vegetables compared to recommendations.

The NPM score determines whether products can be advertised during children’s TV programming as well as non-broadcast media including print, cinema, online, and on social media.

The score is based on the balance between “negative” and “beneficial” nutrients that make up a product.

The more beneficial nutrients, such as fruit and vegetables, protein and fibre, and the fewer negative nutrients, such as sugars, saturated fat and salt, the more likely a product will be given approval.

PHE said the consultation, which lasts until June 15, does not cover the application of the NPM or further restrictions to advertising during children’s programming.

Kawther Hashem, nutritionist at campaign group Action on Sugar, said: “We welcome the consultation, but it’s imperative that the outcome delivers robust and measurable criteria that prevents food and drink products which are high in fat, salt and sugar from being promoted to children.”

An Ofcom spokesman said: “We’re working with regulators and others to ensure that children are protected, and we welcome any evidence which informs those discussions.

“We will consider carefully the TV advertising rules in light of the outcome of Public Health England’s consultation.”

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