Ofcom is consulting on its proposed approach to implementing the upcoming new restrictions on advertising and sponsorship for less healthy food and drink products on TV, on demand, and online. 

The new restrictions were introduced through the Health and Care Act 2022, and will (after much delay) take effect from 1 October 2025.

Once the new rules (eventually) take effect, TV services and on-demand programme services (ODPS) will be prohibited from including advertising and sponsorship for less healthy food and drink products between 5.30am and 9.00pm. Online paid-for advertisements for these products, where they are aimed at UK users, will be prohibited at any time. 

Ofcom is confirming that the existing co-regulatory arrangements for TV and ODPS extend to the new restrictions. This is with Ofcom as the statutory regulator, and through its established co-regulatory relationships with the Advertising Standards Authority, the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice and the Broadcast Standards Board of Finance.  

Ofcom is also consulting on:

  • a proposal to designate the ASA as a co-regulator for the new prohibition on online advertising for less healthy food and drink products. It says that the ASA is widely recognised as a ‘one-stop shop’ for advertising complaints across all media and has extensive experience regulating HFSS advertising.  This would reflect existing arrangements, with Ofcom remaining as statutory backstop so the ASA would not have greater enforcement powers; and
  • amendments to the BCAP Code and the Broadcasting Code to reflect the new restrictions that apply to advertising and sponsorship. To comply with the legislation, Ofcom is proposing to amend the TV sponsorship rules in the Broadcasting Code as well as in its ODPS Rules and Guidance to include the restriction on sponsorship by less healthy food and drink products between 5.30am and 9pm.  It also proposes adding a new section to rule 32 of the BCAP Code to say "TV advertising for identifiable less healthy food or drink products may not be shown between 5.30am and 9.00pm".

A food will be defined as "less healthy" if it is an HFSS product, as defined by the nutrient profiling scheme which was devised by the UK’s Food Standards Agency for use by Ofcom; as well as falling within the definition in the new regulations that the UK government is consulting on until 31 March.

Ofcom's consultation ends on 21 April 2023.