Three in five people do not support a delay to junk food ban – poll

·3-min read

Three in five people do not support a delay to restrictions on junk food advertising, according to a new poll.

The survey of more than 2,000 adults, carried out by YouGov for Cancer Research UK and shared with the PA news agency, shows 60% of people support the restrictions being implemented in January 2023 as originally planned.

The Government is reviewing its anti-obesity strategy for England, including a ban on TV advertising of junk food before 9pm and multibuy deals.

It is thought the review is being carried out in light of the cost-of-living crisis.

Prime Minister Liz Truss is also on record as being against a series of tighter rules.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, published in August, she said: “Those taxes are over. Talking about whether or not somebody should buy a two-for-one offer? No. There is definitely enough of that.

“What people want the Government to be doing is delivering good roads, good rail services, making sure there’s broadband, making sure there’s mobile phone coverage, cutting the NHS waiting lists, helping people get a GP appointment.

“They don’t want the Government telling them what to eat.”

In the Cancer Research UK poll, 56% of those in the most deprived areas, together with 63% of those in the least deprived areas, said they did not want to see delays to the implementation of a 9pm watershed on junk food advertising, as well as a ban on paid-for online junk food advertising.

In the poll, just one in five (18%) disagreed with a ban.

Chief executive of Cancer Research UK, Michelle Mitchell, said: “It is deeply concerning to hear rumours that the Government might scrap measures designed to help people make healthier choices and help reduce the risk of cancer.

“Claims by industry and the Government that these delays will help address the cost of living crisis are grossly misleading.

“Marketing pressures add up, causing us to buy and spend more than we intend – often on unhealthier foods.

“Measures incentivising companies to advertise and promote healthier food are evidence-based and are supported by the public.

“The Government should stand firm and press ahead with legislation to help tackle obesity and implement advertising marketing restrictions as planned.”

According to the charity, the Government’s own analysis shows that price promotions can lead shoppers to buy 20% more than intended, and thus spend more than they had planned.

A recent Cancer Research UK report estimates that if trends continue, by 2040 more than 21 million UK adults will be obese – a rise of more than 6m on current figures.

Kate Oldridge-Turner, head of policy and public affairs at the World Cancer Research Fund International, said: “It’s not surprising that three in five people do not support a delay to restrictions on junk food advertising.

“However, it’s vital that our Government presses ahead with important measures to help people access healthier diets and to ban TV advertising of junk food before 9pm.

“It’s evident that there’s support for these policies, especially during the cost-of-living crisis – where many of us are struggling to access healthy food.”

Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of Action on Sugar and Action on Salt, said: “Now, more than ever, the UK population need equitable access to healthy, affordable food and this can only be achieved with policies designed to rebalance our food system.

“Our new Prime Minister must also honour Number 10’s levelling up promise and protect the nation’s health from the devastating effects of unhealthy diets high in saturated fat, salt and sugar (and lacks fruit and vegetables) which is the biggest cause of death and disability globally and costs the UK more than £100 billion (combined) annually.”

Celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has also criticised the Government review, tweeting that the strategy had been “hard won and has the support of the nation’s health experts”.

He added that the Prime Minister “has no mandate to cancel it and doing so will not merely increase the burden on the NHS but shorten the lives of many thousands of people”.