In a public consultation launched today, the HPB and Ministry of Health outlined plans to review and strengthen standards for advertising food and drinks that are high in fat, sugar and salt to children in Singapore.
The consultation signals a significant departure from existing guidelines, which currently only stipulate that adverts should not actively encourage children to eat excessively throughout the day or to replace main meals with confectionary or snack food.
Under the plans, a set of government-approved food advertising guidelines for children would be introduced to serve as a code of conduct for the industry.
The proposed restrictions would apply to television and print media, with the MoH and HPB citing evidence that television viewing and reading are the preferred leisure activities among children in Singapore.
It added that in 2011 the food and beverage industry in Singapore spent four-fifth of advertising dollars on television and print media.
The proposal outlined that specific areas across print and TV will be targeted, such as the hours during which children’s programmes are aired on free-to-air television, dedicated children’s channels for pay-TV and print media targeted at children.
But the proposed restrictions may cover additional media platforms going forward, as the consultation document said it will target print and television “in the initial stage”.
Last month, 14 F&B companies in Singapore moved to change the way they advertise to children in anticipation of the consultation.
The “Responsible advertising to children pledge”, signed by Coca-Cola, Unilever, Mars, McDonalds, Nestle and Pepsico, will come in to effect on 1 January 2013.
Signatories have agreed to only advertise products that meet agreed nutritional criteria based on accepted scientific evidence or applicable national and international dietary guidelines to children under 12 years of age or not advertise to children under 12 years of age at all.