LONDON • Britain has proposed strict new limits on junk food advertising as ministers seek to control the country’s growing obesity problem, which has been identified as a factor in coronavirus deaths.
The plans include banning TV and online advertising of foods high in fat, sugar or salt before 9pm, the Department for Health and Social Care said yesterday.
“Losing weight is hard, but with some small changes, we can all feel fitter and healthier,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement.
“If we all do our bit, we can reduce our health risks.”
The curbs mark a change of tack for Mr Johnson, who has previously complained about “nanny state” meddling in the lives of ordinary people.
But the pandemic and his own hospitalisation in April persuaded him of the need to act on obesity. In a Twitter video yesterday, Mr Johnson said he had struggled with weight issues.
Almost two-thirds of British adults are overweight, and one in three children leaves primary school weighing too much, said the Health Department. Being too heavy also puts people at greater risk of being infected by the coronavirus and places additional strain on the National Health Service.
The government will also end buy-one-get-one-free promotions on sugary foods and require calorie labels on more products in stores as well as in restaurants. It is starting a consultation on putting calorie counts on alcoholic beverages.
The restrictions will pile more pressure on food, retail, advertising and media industries already suffering from the economic lockdown imposed to control the coronavirus pandemic, with thousands of jobs under threat.
The Food and Drink Federation has slammed the proposals, saying they will have a negligible effect on reducing calorie consumption while pushing up prices for consumers and threatening jobs. It said the measures could add £600 (S$1,065) a year to the cost of a typical family’s grocery shopping bill.