Newham Council becomes seventh London borough to welcome in restrictions on unhealthy food advertising as they build the policy into a drive on tackling health inequalities.
One fifth of London councils now have restrictions on unhealthy food and drinks adverts in their local areas, as The London borough of Newham has signed off a policy. The measures, developed in collaboration with Sustain, have been introduced to tackle health inequalities and will be in place across all of their advertising estate.
Newham Council is the twelth local authority to bring in a Healthier Food Advertising Policy, after the Mayor of London, with support from Sustain, first brought in the policy across the Transport for London network in 2019. Newham is the seventh London borough to do so.
Fran Bernhardt, Commercial Determinants Coordinator, Sustain said:
We have worked closely with Newham on introducing restrictions on unhealthy food adverts in their area so we're thrilled to see this passed. Congratulations to Newham on being in the vanguard of Councils who are prioritising their residents' health. We have been approached by more than 100 Councils, so we're anticipating seeing more follow Newham's lead.
It's no surprise that advertising works. Showing people adverts for unhealthy food makes them eat more of it. We also know that residents of areas with low average income are disproportionately disadvantaged as cynical food companies flood them with more outlets and more adverts.
But local councils shouldn't be left to do this on their own. National Government could use planning laws to support local areas in their fight against food companies that promote food that worsens our health. And they should also introduce a watershed on TV and online to take the spotlight off unhealthy food.
Councillor Neil Wilson, Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care, said:
The Newham Healthier Food Advertising Policy puts people first. It enables an immediate and objective assessment of advertisements containing food, based on the contents of those adverts. It offers no bar to any company and has been shown to have a strong influence not only on what companies choose to advertise, but also the nature of the products they choose to sell.
We want all residents to know we are prioritising their health and wellbeing, even when big firms are willing to spend large sums of money. This approach will send out a clear message that food must be advertised appropriately.
Evidence shows that advertisements for unhealthy food and drink products directly and indirectly impact what we eat. Young people who recall seeing junk food adverts every day are more likely to be obese. This policy is about setting positive examples for everyone, including the next generation.
Evidence from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s evaluation of the Transport for London policy has shown that the restrictions led to a 20% reduction in sugary products, and a 1000 calorie decrease per week per household from unhealthy foods and drinks. Further modelling research from the University of Sheffield has estimated that across London, the restriction will lead to 95,000 fewer cases of obesity, 3000 fewer cases of diabetes and 2000 fewer cases of heart disease and save the NHS £218 million over the lifetime of the current population.
Transport for London also announced that its advertising revenues have been unaffected by the restrictions since implementation in 2019. In the first year of the policy, revenues went up by £2.3 million, and in the second year (2020-21), despite financial losses due to Covid lockdowns at the time, the restrictions enabled the advertising figures to be maintained.
While local authorities are taking action, national government has stalled on anti-obesity measures. In 2020, The Government announced plans to restrict unhealthy food adverts, including a total online and 9pm TV watershed as a key part of the government's obesity strategy. These were due to be implemented in January 2023. However, in December 2022 the national Government delayed these to October 2025 - a delay which pushes them back three years after the date they originally committed to. This comes after the Obesity Health Alliance’s research found that 8 out of 10 adults support the Government restricting unhealthy food advertising to children on TV (79%) and online (81%).
If your local authority is interested in introducing a healthier food advertising policy, check out Sustain's toolkit for local authorities.
You can read Newham Council's announcement here
Published Wednesday 31 January 2024
Good Food Local: Good Food Local supports local authorities to prioritise good food and commit to action on a breadth of food issues.
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