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City of York Council introduces a healthier food advertising policy

City of York Council becomes the second council in Yorkshire to shine a light on healthier food, as leaders sign off healthier food advertising policy.

Chocolate easter egg advert on a bus stop in York. Credit: Fiona Phillips

Chocolate easter egg advert on a bus stop in York. Credit: Fiona Phillips

City of York Council signed off on a robust policy to restrict unhealthy food and drinks adverts in their local area. The measures, developed in collaboration with Sustain, have been introduced to improve public health across the city.

City of York Council is the fourteenth 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. York is the second local authority in Yorkshire to do so after Barnsley successfully signed off on a policy in 2022.

Fran Bernhardt, Sustain's Commercial Determinants Coordinator said:

'I'm thrilled that after many years of working alongside City of York Council, we've been able to support them to bring in the healthier food advertising policy which will champion children's health by switching the spotlight to healthier foods and drinks across the city.

There are now fourteen English Councils, plus the Transport for London network, which hold these robust advertising policies designed by Sustain. Close to 150 more have approached us for support to bring in a Healthier Food Advertising Policy - which is almost 40% of the UK! So the City of York is part of a growing movement of Councils.

Evidence shows that putting the spotlight on unhealthy food makes people eat more of it, leading to worse health. We also know that companies target low income areas, resulting in those people being more likely to experience poor health. Additionally, many of the restricted products are unsustainable, containing climate damaging ingredients, such as sugar, cocoa and palm oil, as well as requiring lots of energy to process them.

We hope the terrific news from York will inspire even more Councils to take this important step for their residents’ health. We also call on the national government to support remaining Councils to implement these changes, as well as introducing a watershed on TV and online so we can take unhealthy food out of the spotlight.'


York’s Director of Public Health, Peter Roderick said:

'The number of children living with an unhealthy weight has been increasing in York and nationally. Approximately 1 in 4 reception-aged children, 1 in 3 year six children and 2 in 3 adults in York are not living with a healthy weight.

Changing our advertising policy is another significant step in the right direction to helping support families and young people and reinforces all the positive work we’re doing across the city to improve children’s nutrition.'



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 that 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%).

Check out York City Council's announcement about the healthier food advertising policy.

If your local authority is interested in introducing a healthier food advertising policy, check out Sustain's toolkit for local authorities.

Published Monday 20 May 2024

Sustain: Sustain The alliance for better food and farming advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, enrich society and culture and promote equity.

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