"This is totally disproportionate. Ofcom's proposals will already halve the amount of ads seen by younger children and amount to a overly strong intervention to restrict TV advertising, especially given that Ofcom and the FSA's own research shows that advertising only has a modest (2 per cent) direct effect on children's food preferences," said Jeremy Preston, Director of the FAU.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) last week voiced its disappointment with the UK's advertising watchdog Ofcom, saying that the proposals on junk food advertising to kids was an inadequate response to the problem posed to children's health.
"The industry agrees with the Health Minister that the chief concern must be primary school children. Yet the FSA appears more interested in trying to restrict the information available to informed adults. This seems quite ridiculous in the context of addressing childhood obesity," said Preston in statement.
The FSA's calls for a pre-9pm watershed ban on advertising of products high in fat, sugar or salt, are "totally disproportionate" say the FAU and could even have wider adverse effects.
In a statement, the FAU said that in the last few years there had already been a 30 per cent reduction in advertising to children, as well as "great progress in product and menu reformulation.
And such a ban could have other detrimental effects, particularly for the television channels who are funded by advertising.
Christy Swords, ITV's Director of Regulatory Affairs, said: "At 8 o'clock last night 19 out of every 20 ITV1 viewers were adults. A pre-watershed ban on food advertising would effectively be a ban on advertising to adults, rather than to children, which is what Ofcom has been asked to address. Such a ban would also threaten investment in programming by advertising-funded channels."
Ofcom's four proposals were published amid rising consumer concern about childhood obesity and over-consumption of food and drink products that are high in fat, salt and sugar.
All of the options set out by Ofcom have two things in common: a ban on food and drink advertising or sponsorship to pre-school children and a set of eight rules about the content of food and drink advertising set out by the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP).
The FSA's response to the Ofcom consultation was issued in order to meet Ofcom's previous consultation deadline of 6 June. However, Ofcom have since extended this deadline to the 30 June.
Ofcom has set out four alternative proposals for new restrictions. OPTION 1: Timing restrictions on specific food and drink products. No HFSS product advertising to be shown in programmes specifically made for children; No HFSS product advertising to be shown in programmes of particular appeal to children up to 9 years old; No sponsorship by HFSS products of programmes affected by the above restrictions; BCAPs rules will be applied to food and drink advertising and sponsorship.
OPTION 2: Timing restrictions on all food and drink advertising. No food or drink advertising to be shown in programmes specifically made for children; No food or drink advertising to be shown in programmes of particular appeal to children up to 9 years old; No sponsorship by food or drink products of programmes affected by the above restrictions; The above restrictions do not apply to healthy eating campaigns supported or endorsed by the Government; BCAPs rules will be applied to food and drink advertising and sponsorship.
OPTION 3: Volume based restrictions on all food and drink products. No food or drink advertising at all to be shown in programmes made for pre-school children. A limit to the amount of food and drink advertising when children are most likely to be watching. BCAPs rules will be applied to food and drink advertising and sponsorship.
OPTION 4: an invitation to propose a workable and effective option, combining some or all of the above and/or new elements, which commands industry support. With this last option Ofcom is making an open invitation to all parties to put forward an alternative common position, if one can be identified, through the consultation process.