Adverts for fruit juice, cereals and yoghurt could be banned from daytime TV under plans to tackle obesity.
Tomato pasta sauce and some vegetable soups would also be affected by the strict rules as they would be deemed high in sugar.
The Government’s public health agency wants to impose tougher limits on the types of ads which can be watched by children. Currently, only adverts for food which is high in fat, sugar or salt – such as chocolate and fizzy drinks – are subject to any restrictions.
Cereal adverts, as well as ones for fruit juice, yoghurt, tomato pasta sauce and some vegetable soups could be banned from daytime TV
These state they cannot be screened around children’s TV shows although they can go out around adults’ daytime programmes. But the Government is considering imposing a 9pm watershed for adverts for any food and drink considered ‘less healthy’. They also want to bring in a much stricter classification system to determine what counts as an unhealthy product.
The details of this proposed system were published yesterday by Public Health England. It showed that nearly all breakfast cereals would be classified as less healthy.
Only shredded wheat and porridge would pass but not muesli or Special K as the sugar content is too high. Fruit juice and yoghurts are also classified as less healthy apart from Greek, natural or non-fat varieties.
Under the system, all food and drinks products are given a score based on their sugar, fat, salt and fibre content. The more sugar, fat or salts they contain, the higher their points. But if they are high in fibre, points are subtracted.
Foods with a score of four or more are deemed to ‘fail’ and would face an advertising ban.
Jeremy Hunt will approve the final version of a healthy food classification system later this year
But critics said the system ‘flies in the face of common sense’ as it discounts many foods and drinks which are highly nutritious. They also say many people rely on fruit juice to meet their five-a-day fruit and veg requirements.
The healthy food classification system will now be subject to a three-month consultation.
PHE is due to publish a final version later this year, which will be approved by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Mr Hunt is also expected to announce a new obesity strategy this summer including proposals for a 9pm watershed for unhealthy food adverts.
But the Food and Drink Federation, which represents the food industry, said: ‘Obesity poses a huge public health challenge in the UK, and food and drink companies are well aware of their responsibilities in addressing this issue. However, the new definition risks preventing a range of foods that most people would regard as healthy from being advertised to children. For example pureed vegetable soup, pure fruit juice, or yoghurt with fruit puree, could fail the model under the proposed changes.
‘This flies in the face of common sense. Yes, we should all be reducing our sugar consumption but the quality of our diets – including eating more fibre, fruit and vegetables – is important too.’