The UK Government has confirmed plans to ban adverts promoting foods high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS), online and before 9pm on TV from 2023. Below two lawyers from our food team – Partner Nick Johnson and Senior Associate Katrina Anderson share their thoughts.

Nick Johnson said: "The advertising ban announced today for so-called 'junk food' will have significant implications for online platforms. There will now be complicated restrictions which these platforms will need to understand and work out how to apply. Given that the ASA has recently used bots to identify problematic online ads, it is likely that there will be enforcement against non-compliant food and drink ads."

Katrina Anderson said: "The long-awaited announcement of the online advertising ban for so-called "junk food" has turned out not to be as strict as some had feared.  Food manufacturers, large and small, will still be allowed to place marketing messages on their own websites and social media.  Small manufacturers will also not be caught by the new rules – which means will still be seeing some adverts for HFSS products pre-watershed and in paid-for space online."

Nick Johnson said: "The exemption for small businesses, which will allow them to continue to advertise so-called 'junk food', will create an odd two-tier system. What they’re proposing are rules that may or may not apply depending on who the advertiser is and how large their business is, rather than just being based on the content and placement of the ad.  This new approach is unprecedented in UK advertising regulation and could have unexpected impacts on M&A transactions and corporate structures in the food and beverage sector."

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