The Government was today accused of “nutty nanny statism” with its plan to ban junk food adverts on TV before 9pm and a total ban online.
Despite railing against the “Nanny State” in the past, Boris Johnson plans to bring in a sweeping ban on junk food adverts.
The proposal to curb the advertising of fatty foods was revealed in a briefing document that accompanied Tuesday’s Queen’s Speech.
Matthew Lesh, head of research at libertarian think tank the Adam Smith Institute, said: “The ad ban plan is nutty nanny statism. It will do nothing to reduce obesity while savagely striking at struggling hospitality businesses and hurting the public.
“The measures will apply to a shockingly large array of foods. It will be illegal to advertise online British favourites like fish and chips, scotch eggs or even a Full English breakfast; takeaways would be unable to post images of their food online; descriptive words like ‘delicious’ will be banned.
“Thousands of restaurants, which have been kept alive thanks to online delivery, will no longer be able to advertise online to find new customers, hitting small businesses the hardest.”
Advertising Association chief executive Stephen Woodford said they were “dismayed” at the Government’s decision that will “damage business” and “put jobs at risk”.
He added: “The Government’s own evidence shows that such measures will be ineffective in tackling obesity. The country needs balanced, consistent and well-evidenced policy interventions that will make a positive difference.”
Christopher Snowdon, from free-market think tank Institute of Economic Affairs told the Standard: “There still is no satisfactory legal definition of ‘junk food’. The kind of products that will be banned from advertising are not the kind of things normal people consider to be unhealthy or consider to be junk. It’s going to affect everybody from the largest corporations to the local bakery, the local wedding cake maker, the local sweet shop.
“The Government really needs to - at the very least - water down these proposals to protect what is the country’s largest and most important industry. It’s a huge infringement of their free speech basically. This is really the last thing business needs, particularly at the moment.”
Obesity busting measures
Under the Health and Care Bill:
Firms with more than 250 employees will be forced to list calories on food - although plans to include drinks were ditched.
A new incentive scheme called Fit Miles will look at paying people to eat better and exercise more.
He said people were being sold a “pig in a poke” that it will only affect large hamburger companies, adding: “It’s not, it’s going to affect thousands and thousands of businesses large and small.”
The Prime Minister abandoned his “very libertarian” view on food choices after contracting Covid-19 and ending up in intensive care last year. He admitted he had been “too fat” and his weight was likely a factor in him needing ICU.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan brought in similar policies at City Hall by outlawing adverts showing food and drinks with high fat, salt and sugar on the Tube, Overground and bus network.
At the time, a Conservative assembly member described the ban as “pointless virtue signalling” and “grandstanding”.
Britain is the second fattest European nation and obesity is thought to be factor that could have worsened the country’s death toll during the pandemic.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the ban would be “sensible and proportionate”. Asked if it was possible to fine those who contravene the ban, he replied: “Yes, we’re working with providers, we’re working with companies to make sure that this is something that can be done sensibly and proportionately.”
Asked if a bakery selling cakes and pasties could not have an Instagram account, he replied: “The consultation response will set out how we are going to do this sensibly and proportionately.”
He said they would set out very clearly to businesses what would be required of them.