Labour has pledged to ban junk food adverts before the 9pm watershed in a bid to halve childhood obesity.
The party said the proposal to ban adverts for foods high in fat, sugar or salt forms part of a future child health bill that will be included in its election manifesto.
Labour will not require food manufacturers to change the fat, salt or sugar content of their products, but shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth hopes the change in advertising rules will have a positive impact on children’s health. The party believes the ban would see a significant cut in the number of junk food adverts viewed by children.
Ashworth said Labour wants to make Britain’s next generation “the healthiest in the world” through a £250m-a-year package of reforms that will also include investment in school nurses and counselling services in primary and secondary schools.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Labour would apply the same rules to primetime television that already apply to children’s TV.
“When you’re sat down with your children, as I do, watching The X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent, you’re not going to be seeing adverts for junk food,” he said.
“This isn’t the only measure to help us tackle obesity, but a number of children are watching these shows, and there is research that children see the adverts for McDonald’s and hassle their parents to go there. I do take my children to McDonald’s, but it’s all about doing it in moderation.”
The Labour minister hopes the proposed advertising ban would combine with the so-called sugar tax due to be imposed from April 2018, which is designed to encourage food and drinks manufacturers to make their products healthier.
“I think Ribena, for example, are changing their sugar content [in response to the sugar tax],” Ashworth said. “So there’s no reason why food companies cannot do similar. If they want to advertise their foods on Britain’s Got Talent, they can reduce the salt, the sugar, the fat content.”