Junk food advertising will be banned on the entire Transport for London (TfL) network from 25 February under groundbreaking measures to help tackle child obesity, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, confirmed today.
The decision follows a public consultation launched in May which found overwhelming support from Londoners for a ban, covering all adverts for food and non-alcoholic drinks high in fat, salt and / or sugar and considered “less healthy” under Public Health England guidelines. Examples of products that would not be accepted are sugary drinks, cheeseburgers, chocolate bars and salted nuts, while unsalted nuts, raisins and sugar free drinks would be accepted.
Food and drink brands, restaurants, takeaways and delivery services will only be able to place adverts which promote their healthier products, rather than simply publicising brands.
From 25 February, the restrictions will apply to advertisements on all modes of transport controlled by TfL, including the Underground, Overground, London buses, TfL Rail, trams and river services. The Mayor’s online Talk London platform, which offers Londoners the chance to have their say on issues in the capital, alone received 1,500 consultation responses with 82 per cent supporting the proposals.
London has one of the highest child overweight and obesity rates in Europe, with almost 40 per cent of the capital’s children aged 10 and 11 overweight or obese. Children from more deprived areas of the capital are disproportionately affected, with young people in Barking and Dagenham almost twice as likely to be overweight as children from Richmond.*This week, new figures from Diabetes UK revealed a huge rise in the number of children and young people across the country diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Nearly 7,000 young Britons are now suffering with the disease, linked to obesity.
There is a growing body of evidence that the more children are exposed to advertising for less healthy foods, whether on TV, on the internet, or via outdoor advertising, the higher the risk of increasing their consumption of those foods and of becoming overweight or obese. A report published earlier this year by Cancer Research UK found young people who recalled seeing junk food adverts every day were more than twice as likely to be obese. The same study found 87 per cent of young people found adverts for high fat, salt and sugar products appealing, with three-quarters tempted to eat a product after seeing such an advert.
Sadiq believes it is a scandal that so many children are overweight or obese in a city as prosperous as London. He launched the proposal for the ban in May as part of a public consultation into his draft London Food Strategy. The finalised strategy will be published next month.