Food advertisers attack 'confusing' White Paper

Food advertisers are angry and confused about the precise impact of the government's White Paper on public health, and the measures they must take to avoid a ban on advertising before 9pm, according to the Advertising Association (AA).

At the AA's Food Advertising Unit (FAU) conference last week, just two days after the publication of the White Paper, FAU director Jeremy Preston said the food industry was 'struggling to understand the proportionality' in the proposals. He dismissed the White Paper as 'smacking of short-term populism and political expediency'.

Delegates failed to win any clarification from Imogen Sharp, head of health improvement and prevention at the Department of Health, who spoke at the event. They were keen to know the results the government requires by 2007 for the industry to avoid legislation.

Andrew Brown, chairman of the Code of Advertising Practice, questioned whether marketers would be held responsible if there were no change in children's food preferences by 2007, but Sharp said the government had made its position clear.

Many advertisers are already planning for 2005 and beyond, meaning strategy alterations by 2007 could be difficult, but Sharp refused to accept this objection. She said the government spent a lot on advertising and added: 'I know we could shift the pattern of our spend if we were required to, so we're asking you to do the same.'

Ofcom is set to review the Codes of Advertising Practice to tighten up the rules governing food advertising to children. Changes will be guided by a Food Standards Agency project aimed at producing a 'sign-posting' system of food labelling in 2005.

Analysis, pages 16, 17, 19; Profile, page 24.

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