‘Junk’ food product placement banned in UK

Posted by Josette Dunn on 10th February 2010

The UK government has imposed a ban on the placement of foods, alcohol and drinks high in fat, salt or sugar on television programmes.The Government announced yesterday (9 February) that product placement will be allowed on UK television programmes in a bid to alleviate financial damage to the industry, but that there would be exceptions to the rules.

The ban follows opposition from Cabinet ministers who lobbied against aspects of the government’s original proposals last September, indicating that it would allow paid placement of branded goods in programmes not targeted at children.

This morning, Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw said: “It is right for us to proceed with caution and in particular to be very careful about the types of product for which it is permitted,” Bradshaw said.

“Our legislation will therefore specify some important exceptions, in particular the prohibition of the placement of alcohol and foods and drinks high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS foods).

“The Government also fully shares the concerns that have been expressed about the potential impact of product placement on the editorial independence of broadcasters and viewers’ trust in what they see on television. We believe that our proposals will safeguard these.”

Product placement will not be allowed in the BBC’s licence-fee funded services. The European Directive bans product placement of tobacco and prescription medicines but the Government has moved beyond this to include alcoholic drinks, high fat, salt and sugar foods, gambling, smoking accessories, over the counter medicines and baby milk formula.

Bradshaw said the Government had considered allowing alcohol product placement in programmes past the watershed but added: “This would be complex to administer and would not provide the certainty which the Government seeks.”

He said: “In the circumstances we intend to legislate for a complete bar on placing these products. This as an important aspect of the cautious approach that we need to take.”

Children’s food campaigners welcomed today’s announcement but said there are still “serious concerns” about the use of any form of paid-for product placement.

“It is good news that the massive pressure from health, consumer and children’s groups has forced Ben Bradshaw to drop plans to allow the product placement of junk food,” said Children’s Food Campaign co-coordinator Jackie Schneider.

“But we are very uncomfortable that plans to allow some product placement will still go ahead. This creates the possibility that a future government could still allow placement of junk food through the back. The political parties should be warned that any attempt to reintroduce product placement of junk food in the future will be met by the same massive level of opposition that won this argument.”

Advertisers had been critical of the reported plans of a u-turn on product placement.

Ian Twinn, director of public affairs for the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) yesterday said that while there is a need for “strict rules”, he didn’t think an “idiosyncratic ban” was the way to do it.

“[The Government] need to be more thoughtful,” Twinn said. “I suppose we are a little disappointed. If this government does allow [the ban], the only things we are going to be allowed to do are things that don’t upset the prejudices of individual members of the cabinet. It’s very odd.”

Twinn added that stopping the advertising of sugary drinks and foods high in salt, fat and sugar will not be “particularly helpful”.

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