UK issues stringent regulations for junk food marketing to curb rise of unhealthy eating habits

UK – The government of the United Kingdom has banned late-night advertising of junk food in an effort to promote a healthy society. 

The law is the latest attempt by the UK government to tame unhealthy eating habits that are causing its citizens to suffer from lifestyle diseases such as obesity and diabetes. 

Obesity is a common problem that affects around 1 in every 4 adults and around 1 in every 5 children aged 10 to 11 in the UK, according to the UK National Health Service. 

According to a report by the Guardian, a “growing obesity crisis” has led to nearly 2 million people in England being exposed to the condition that causes the level of sugar in the blood to become too high. 

Gov.UK estimates show that in England obese adults are five times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than adults of a healthy weight, making obesity a serious health crisis for the country.  

The government hopes that banning late-night junk food advertisements can prevent the prevalence of late-night snacking which has been associated with physical complaints like stomachache and diarrhea.

Earlier in May, the UK announced a new law banning TV advertising of unhealthy foods – products high in sugar, salt, and fat – before a 9 pm watershed when children could be viewing. 

Foods affected were those high in fat, sugar, or salt content, with the Times reporting “rules will apply to soft drinks, cakes, chocolate, ice cream, pastries, biscuits, milkshakes, breakfast cereals, pizza, ready meals, crisps, chips, and other breaded and battered meals.” 

Advertising of discount deals for unhealthy foods was also be banned, while people are to be rewarded with shopping vouchers for losing weight and exercising under an incentive scheme to encourage healthier living.  

The May legislation also restricted retailer promotions on food and drink products that are high in fat, salt, and sugar from April 2022. 

Previous legislations on junk food by the Boris Johnson-led government have received strong criticism from the UK food industry with stakeholders saying the recent laws will punish manufacturers that have already re-formulated products to make them healthier. 

“This is tying businesses’ hands, by limiting how healthier options can be successfully brought to market. It undercuts what has been a key pillar of the government’s obesity strategy and demonstrates a lack of joined-up policymaking,” said Kate Halliwell, chief scientific officer at UK industry body The Food and Drink Federation. 

However, food campaign groups Action on Sugar and Action on Salt have welcomed the decision saying that “the Government will finally be making Britain healthier.” 

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