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Food ad rules to include online

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) is releasing a revised code on the advertising of food to children under 12 in non-broadcast media such as magazines, paid-for ad space on the internet, newspapers, billboards and cinema.

The code has been modified in the light of recent concerns about obesity in primary school age children.

Its key elements are:

  • 'Child' means anyone under the age of 12
  • Celebrities and licensed characters may not be used to advertise any food except fresh fruit and vegetables directly to children under 12
  • Advertisements for promotions relating to all foods except fresh fruit and vegetables may not be addressed directly to the under-12s
  • Nutritional claims on any foods other than fresh fruit and vegetables may not be made directly to the under-12s

The volume restrictions present in the Ofcom broadcast code, which have received a lot of press coverage and caused concern for publishers, will not be present in the non-broadcast code. This is because the volume of advertising to children in non-broadcast media is already significantly lower than on TV.

Digital publishers should bear in mind that the restrictions are only on certain types of marketing approach. They do not preclude straight advertisements of any kind of food to any age group. Furthermore they relate only to promotions directed specifically at the under-12s and do not incorporate promotions directed at parents or carers.

It would however be wise to bear in mind that the Department of Health will be monitoring the type and volume of advertising in children's media with a view to evaluating whether or not the codes have been successful. The code is expected to be up and running by the middle of the year.

The PPA is planning workshops for PPA and AOP members to explain fully the content of the revised code relating to food and children. Further details of these sessions will be made available as soon as possible.

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