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Online Junk Food Advertising

Volume 692: debated on Tuesday 13 April 2021

What steps he plans to take to ensure a level playing field between online and mainstream broadcasters in the implementation of the proposed advertisement ban on foods high in fat, sugar and salt before 9 pm. (914213)

We have made clear our intention to end the advertising of high fat, salt and sugar products on television before 9 pm. We recently held a short consultation on how to introduce advertising restrictions for online and we will publish our response soon. A level playing field, however, is important. I want to make it easy for everyone to be healthy.

Does the Minister agree that ending junk food marketing online is hardly an outrageous assault on our freedoms, would remove 12.5 billion calories a year from children’s diets, and would allow advertisers and food companies to make plenty of money from producing and marketing healthy food?

Indeed I do. We are not banning food. It is very important that we make the environment right to ensure that people can make the healthy choice as a default option and enjoy a healthy balanced diet where they have the full knowledge and understanding of what they are purchasing. I think this is actually a great opportunity for companies.

May I send my deepest condolences, thoughts and prayers to the hon. Member for Tooting (Dr Allin-Khan) and her family?

It is good to hear the Minister say that there will be a level playing field in this area, but it has been reported on national media over the past few weeks that the Government seem to be dropping plans to ban ads online for foods high in fat, sugar and salt. On that basis, surely she will agree that when half of 10-year-olds and 83% of 12 to 15-year-olds own a smartphone, with 86% of those children using video on demand, it would be absolute nonsense to ban advertising on mainstream broadcast TV where children watch very little.

I agree that making sure that there is a level playing field is the right thing to do. If we were currently doing so well, we would not have the number of children and young people overweight or living with obesity, so we must work on making sure that we do everything we can so that every child can be a healthy weight. But my hon. Friend will not get me to pre-empt the consultation that we will be reporting on shortly.