Google and YouTube to BLOCK junk food adverts for under-18s in the UK amid government efforts to tackle obesity
- Companies advertising products high in fat, salt, sugar will have to declare this
- Products will be tagged and not shown to users younger than 18
- Age is taken from the date of birth inputted when people created accounts
- The advertising restrictions will come into force in the UK and the EU in October
Google is banning junk food adverts from being shown to children on its platforms, including YouTube.
Google’s junk food crackdown will come into force in the EU and the UK in October and will prevent ads for products that are high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) from being shown to under-18s.
The announcement comes just days after Boris Johnson announced Britain’s new anti-obesity drive.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said previously that if all overweight adults were to lose just five pounds in weight it could save the NHS £100 million.
The Government’s National Obesity Strategy involves banning all TV adverts for foods high fat, sugar and salt before 9pm in the UK.
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Google’s junk food crackdown will prevent companies that sell products high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) from being shown to under-18s in the EU and UK as of October (file)
Google will use its vast technological prowess to enforce a blanket ban on any products being shown to children which are deemed unhealthy, including cakes, hot dogs and energy drinks.
Companies wanting to use Google to advertise will have to declare if their product is high in HFSS.
Failure to declare could result in the adverts being pulled completely, it is believed.
These will be automatically tagged and Google’s algorithms will not show them to under-18s.
The age of users will be worked out based on the age they provided when creating their YouTube/Google account.
A Google Spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘We have strict advertising policies that are designed to both protect users and help advertisers seamlessly comply with the latest industry and regulatory standards.
‘This week, we are introducing a new policy to prohibit the promotion of High Fat Salt Sugar food and beverage products to minors in the EU and UK.’
Stores will be barred from pushing ‘buy one, get one free’ promotions on unhealthy products as the Government looks to reduce the temptation to snack.
Supermarket managers will also be banned from placing confectionery in tempting locations, such as store entrances and beside checkouts, and will instead be encouraged to offer more discounts on fruit and vegetables.
The Prime Minister’s strategy will put an end to junk food adverts on television and online before the 9pm watershed in a bid to shield youngsters at a time when their food preferences are being set.
The Government will also hold a consultation into whether the planned internet advertising restrictions could be wider reaching, with a total ban on advertising food high in fat, sugar or salt an option under consideration.
– Calorie counting
Ministers will introduce new legislation forcing restaurants and takeaways with more than 250 employees to add calorie labels to their menus to assist diners in making more informed choices.
The Department of Health said a consultation would follow before the end of the year to help decide whether the same type of calorie labelling on alcohol should be required.
– Health service interventions
To help people lose the pounds, NHS weight management services will be expanding, with more smartphone apps rolled out with the purpose of improving lifestyle and overall health.
The NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme will also see improvements.
GPs will be encouraged to prescribe exercise and other social activities to help people keep fit, with cycling pilots in the poorest areas set to provide bikes to entice people into upping their activity levels.
– Food packet labelling
A consultation – the third associated with the strategy – will gather evidence on how the current ‘traffic light’ labelling system on food packets is being used by consumers and industry, while comparing it to other international examples.
The labelling is used to highlight the fat content and other barometers of how healthy a product is to help shoppers understand what is in the food they buy.
If a user is not logged in to their accounts, the default setting will be to not show the adverts for the unhealthy treats.
It remains to be seen how effective Google is at policing its adverts, following a string of embarrassing and dangerous blunders which left children exposed.
Last year it emerged paedophiles were swarming to the comments section of videos, targeting children.
Advertisers such as Nestle and Epic Games, who had ads in close proximity to such comments, stopped buying the space until it was resolved.
Google’s failure to protect children on its platform resulted in the Financial Conduct Authority having to step in.
Britain’s ongoing obesity epidemic has been highlighted in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.
Public Health England recently reported that being overweight makes a person three times more likely to die from Covid-19.
People who have extra weight, defined as a body mass index of over 25, are also at higher odds of needing ventilation when ill with Covid-19 by seven-fold.
The report said excess weight does not seem to increase people’s chances of contracting Covid-19, but said excess fat can affect the respiratory system and is likely to affect immune function.
Experts behind the report said ‘every kilo’ people lost would reduce their risk of being admitted to hospital with the coronavirus.
Boris Johnson used himself as an example of Britain’s obesity epidemic, saying he was ‘too fat’ when he was admitted to hospital with the coronavirus.
Since recovering he claims to be going on morning runs with his dog Dilyn.
He is urging the nation to follow his lead, insisting the Government’s ‘better health strategy’ will help people to ‘bring their weight down’ and better protect the NHS.
The UK is the second fattest country in Europe with two-thirds of adults above a healthy weight, according to Government data, and one in three children aged 10 to 11 are overweight or obese.
The Government’s new anti-obesity strategy spells the end of confectionery displays at store checkouts and a ban on adverts for foods high in fat, sugar and salt on TV before 9pm.
Deals such as ‘buy one get one free’ on unhealthy foods will also be banned, while alcoholic drinks could soon have to list their calorie content.
Placing sugary and fatty items in prominent locations in stores will be stopped, including at checkouts and entrances, and online.
Instead, shops will be encouraged to promote healthier choices and offer more discounts on healthy food such as fruit and vegetables.
The Government will also hold a consultation on whether the ban on online adverts for foods high in salt, sugar and fat should apply at all times of the day.
Mr Johnson said in a video posted on Twitter to mark the launch of the strategy that ‘like many people I struggle with my weight’ and he had ‘always wanted to lose weight for ages and ages’.
‘But since I have recovered from coronavirus I have been steadily building up my fitness,’ he said.
‘I don’t want to make any excessive claims because I have only just started concentrating on it but I am more than a stone down.
WHAT IS OBESITY?ADULTS WITH A BMI OVER 30 ARE SEEN AS OBESE
Obesity is defined as an adult having a BMI of 30 or over.
A healthy person’s BMI – calculated by dividing weight in kg by height in metres, and the answer by the height again – is between 18.5 and 24.9.
Among children, obesity is defined as being in the 95th percentile.
Percentiles compare youngsters to others their same age.
For example, if a three-month-old is in the 40th percentile for weight, that means that 40 per cent of three-month-olds weigh the same or less than that baby.
Around 58 per cent of women and 68 per cent of men in the UK are overweight or obese.
The condition costs the NHS around £6.1billion, out of its approximate £124.7 billion budget, every year.
This is due to obesity increasing a person’s risk of a number of life-threatening conditions.
Such conditions include type 2 diabetes, which can cause kidney disease, blindness and even limb amputations.
Research suggests that at least one in six hospital beds in the UK are taken up by a diabetes patient.
Obesity also raises the risk of heart disease, which kills 315,000 people every year in the UK – making it the number one cause of death.
Carrying dangerous amounts of weight has also been linked to 12 different cancers.
This includes breast, which affects one in eight women at some point in their lives.
Among children, research suggests that 70 per cent of obese youngsters have high blood pressure or raised cholesterol, which puts them at risk of heart disease.
Obese children are also significantly more likely to become obese adults.
And if children are overweight, their obesity in adulthood is often more severe.
As many as one in five children start school in the UK being overweight or obese, which rises to one in three by the time they turn 10.
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