Our response to ASA consultation on restrictions on adverts for less healthy foods

In 2022, the UK Government introduced legislation amending the Communications Act 2003 to place additional restrictions on certain food and drink advertising. The aim was to build on the existing framework of rules to increase protections further mitigating the effects of advertising on children’s dietary choices.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) have published a new set of guidance for advertisers on applying the legislation to restrict advertising of less healthy food and drink products. The ASA is carrying out this consultation on proposed changes to the Codes reflecting the new restrictions, along with a proposal for new guidance to support their implementation. The restrictions and guidance will apply to adverts on television, online and in digital media, including on-demand services, which are reserved to the UK government. 

In our response, we outline a number of concerns regarding the less healthy food advertising guidelines. These include:

  • Concern with the definition of 'identifiable less healthy product' used 
  • Concern the rules won't apply to generic products, or depictions of generic products
  • Concern over the applicability of the rules to product ranges and variants 
  • Concern over the use of 'on behalf of' and the options this creates to exempt further actors from complying with the rules/regulations, including third party delivery partners 

The guidance as it currently stands will not help to protect children from exposure to unhealthy food marketing, and will not contribute to reducing overweight and obesity, which was the aim and intention of the legislation/regulations when introduced and implemented by the UK Government. 

The consultation closes at 5pm on 7th February 2024.