What the HFSS ban means for your ads right now

27th August 2020

On 27 July, the government announced its latest Obesity Strategy.

From TV’s perspective, the most important element of this strategy is that, despite indications to the contrary in advance of the announcement, the government said it intends to introduce a ban on high fat, sugar and salt foods (HFSS) being aired before 9 pm.

Although the ban is intended to be introduced by the end of 2022, the announcement, understandably, drew some immediate questions about what it meant for the immediate future advertising of HFSS foods. The answer to these questions is that nothing has changed. We will continue to assess all food advertising in line with current rules and guidelines.  

To demonstrate that a food or drink does not fall into the HFSS category, we require advertisers to supply a Nutritional Profile Certificate that shows that. This certificate is available on our website here.

To qualify as non-HFSS, a food’s calculated score, based on 100grams, needs to be 4 or less and for drinks, it needs to be 1 point or less. Foods or drinks that are classified as non-HFSS can be advertised in and around any programmes at any time.

Any food or drink ads for which certificates are not supplied are automatically classed as HFSS and restricted in line with the BCAP rules that state that foods classified as HFSS should not be transmitted in or around programmes commissioned for, directed at, or likely to appeal particularly to those under 16. This often includes advertising for supermarkets that includes a range of food and drinks, even if some of the products featured may not be HFSS. It may also include brand ads for food or drinks companies that are synonymous with HFSS food such as burger, pizza or chicken restaurants or takeaways, even if specific food items are not featured.

The scheduling rules for HFSS foods are some of the strictest in the BCAP Code; they have been in place for over 13 years. In that time, the ASA has not needed to rule against any ads for failing to comply.

Here at Clearcast, we will continue, on behalf of broadcasters, to keep a close eye on the developments in this area while assessing ads against existing rules. You can talk to your Copy Executive if you’re unsure about anything.