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Sustain's Fran Bernhardt published in peer-reviewed journal

The article in the Perspectives in Public Health journal presents the evidence for implementing local healthier food advertising policies and is co-authored by Dr Penny Breeze of the University of Sheffield.

 An advert for McDonald's in Central London. Copyright: Stephen Plaster | shutterstock

An advert for McDonald's in Central London. Copyright: Stephen Plaster | shutterstock

Next February will mark five years since the Mayor of London, with support from Sustain, first brought in a Healthier Food Advertising Policy across the Transport for London network. The article, entitled: "how to reduce obesity, diabetes and heart disease while saving the NHS money at negligible cost" in the peer-reviewed journal, Perspectives in Public Health, reviews the evidence of public health impact and the progress across local governments to date.

The article draws on evidence from the independently funded evaluation of the Transport for London policy, which found that restricting unhealthy food advertising has led to a 20% reduction in confectionery purchases and 1000 fewer calories per household per week from unhealthy foods and drinks. Additionally, modelling from the article's co-author, Dr. Penny Breeze indicates that this would be expected to have widespread impacts for Londoners' health including: 94,867 fewer cases of obesity over 12 months, 2857 fewer cases of diabetes and 1915 fewer cases of heart disease after three years, which is expected to result in a £218 million saving over the current population's lifetime.

Another important finding is that this policy is expected to reduce health inequalities. Research shows that people living in more deprived areas are more exposed to unhealthy food advertising, putting them at increased risk of diet-related diseases. The evidence indicates that the policy will therefore have a bigger impact on people living in less affluent areas - ultimately reducing inequalities between rich and poor.

The article also draws on the experiences across Transport for London and local governments to reveal that there have been negligible financial costs, with advertising revenues maintained across all governments that have implemented the policy. This is because under the policy, no companies are banned from advertising - they simply need to swap out unhealthy food for healthier food in their adverts.

It should be noted that since the article went to press, there have been a further two local govrenments that have successfully signed off healthier food advertising policies with the support of Sustain: Luton City Council and Havering Council. This brings the total across the country to nine: Barnsley, Bristol, Greenwich, Haringey, Havering, Luton, Merton, Southwark and Tower Hamlets.

In the closing paragraphs, the article talks about the significant opposition and aggressive lobbying from both commercially focussed teams in local governments, as well as the food and drinks industry and advertising industry. It recommends that local governments considering policy implementation, follow good practice and contact Sustain for further information.

This article is a precis. You can read the full version free of charge at Perspectives in Public Health journal.

If you are considering bringing in a Healthier Food Advertising Policy in your local government, please contact Fran Bernhardt on

Published Thursday 30 November 2023

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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