Junk food advertising will be banned on the entire Transport for London (TfL) network from 25 February under new measures to help tackle child obesity, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, confirmed on 23 November.
The decision follows a public consultation launched in May which found “overwhelming” support from Londoners for a ban, covering all adverts for food and non-alcoholic drinks high in fat, salt and/or sugar and considered “less healthy” under Public Health England guidelines. Examples of products that would not be accepted are sugary drinks, cheeseburgers, chocolate bars and salted nuts, while unsalted nuts, raisins and sugar free drinks would be accepted.
Food and drink brands, restaurants, takeaways and delivery services will only be able to place adverts which promote their healthier products, rather than simply publicising brands.
From 25 February, the restrictions will apply to advertisements on all modes of transport controlled by TfL, including the Underground, Overground, London buses, TfL Rail, trams and river services.
The mayor’s online Talk London platform, which gives Londoners the chance to have their say on issues in the capital, received 1,500 consultation responses with 82% supporting the proposals. Sadiq said he believed it was a “scandal” that so many children were overweight or obese in a city like London. He launched the proposal for the ban in May as part of a public consultation into his draft London Food Strategy. The finalised strategy will be published next month.
The mayor is also supporting work to encourage healthy eating, including the ‘Veg Power’ campaign, led by the Food Foundation and backed by chefs and campaigners Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
This is part of a wider drive to tackle child obesity, which includes Khan setting up London’s first ever Child Obesity Taskforce. The Taskforce has committed to take action to help halve the percentage of London’s children who are overweight at the start of primary school and obese at the end of primary school by 2030.
It will publish its action plan to help achieve this in the new year. Khan’s draft London Plan also outlines proposals to ban the opening of new hot food takeaways within 400 metres of the entrance or exit of existing, or proposed, primary and secondary schools.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Child obesity is putting the lives of young Londoners at risk and placing huge pressure on our already strained health service. It is absolutely imperative that we take tough action against this ticking time bomb now, and reducing exposure to junk food advertising has a role to play in this – not just for children, but parents, families and carers who buy food and prepare meals.
“It’s clear that advertising plays a huge part in the choices we make, whether we realise it or not, and Londoners have shown overwhelming support for a ban on adverts for junk food and drink on our transport network.”
Jamie Oliver, chef and campaigner, added: “This is an amazing move from the Mayor and TfL, and they’ve got overwhelming support from Londoners who’ve said loud and clear they want a transport system with healthier ads and messages. Yes London.”
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, chef and campaigner, said: “When it comes to tackling childhood obesity, we need to pull all the levers possible, which is why I’m delighted to hear that not only are the mayor of London and TfL removing junk food ads on their network, but they’re actually going to promote vegetables instead. This is a real victory for veg; let’s hope TfL paves the way for others to follow.”