Following a public consultation, strengthened rules controlling the advertisement of high fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) products to children came into force this summer. They’d been expected for a while and for many couldn’t come soon enough.
We think these rules can lead to a major reduction in the number of adverts for HFSS food and drinks seen by children. This will help in the fight against childhood obesity.
The new rules and their anticipated impact
The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) rules complement the existing Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) rules. So what are the key points to note and what impact should they have on advertising HFSS products? Here’s a short rundown:
1. Age of a ‘child’ increased
A ‘child’ is now classified as anyone under 16, rather than under 12 as it was previously. Many of the rules apply to this wider age group.
Impact: A far greater number of young people will be protected from seeing the ads.
2. New restrictions based on audience
Adverts that promote an HFSS product, whether directly or indirectly (such as brand advertising using company logos or characters), cannot appear in children’s media or when children make up over 25 per cent of the audience.
Impact: The window of opportunity for advertising is more limited. It’s lovely to think that popular TV shows such as the X-Factor, which have a significant under-16 audience, will no longer be able to show adverts promoting products that are HFSS.
3. Celebrity endorsement prohibited for under-12 audience
Adverts for HFSS products that are likely to be seen as directly targeting under-12s cannot include promotions, licensed characters and celebrities popular with children.
Impact: Companies will no longer be able to use popular influencers such as footballers, Disney characters, etc. to help sell their products to children.
4. Reach extended, covering broadcast, print and online platforms
The rules now apply not just to broadcast media but also non-broadcast, such as print, cinema, digital and social media platforms.
Impact: Children are now protected across all platforms. The industry now has to factor in social media when it’s planning who and where to target its products.
5. Burden of proof shifted to advertisers
In order to determine whether a product is considered HFSS, advertisers must enter its nutritional content data into the Department of Health’s Nutrient Profiling Model. This model has been used to control TV advertising of food and drink products since January 2007.
Previously, all advertisers were required to submit a completed HFSS certificate to Clearcast before an advert could be aired on or around children’s programming. With the new rules, certificates do not need to be completed before an advert runs on non-broadcast media. However, as part of due diligence, businesses have an obligation to ensure they comply with the CAP code and hold the necessary documentation in-house.
If a complaint is made about an advert to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), measures will be taken to review it (which may involve a formal investigation) and non-compliant adverts will need amending or removing.
Impact: There’s a possible danger that as adverts are no longer pre-approved, more of them with inappropriate content will slip through the net – especially as the ASA admits it’s going to have a tough time enforcing the wider scope of application of its rules. However, the ASA will investigate any complaints seriously – even if it’s only one complaint against an advert. The complaint can come from anyone – likely to be competitors, pressure groups and parents. With the burden of responsibility for an appropriate ad more heavily weighing on the advertisers, we hope they will be careful to conduct their due diligence responsibly, to avoid costly amends or even the creation of a new campaign if they are forced to pull one.
Our overall assessment
The new CAP rules are very welcome. The wider remit, covering all platforms, presents both opportunities and challenges: the ASA will have its work cut out enforcing it. The more awareness there is amongst those interested in preventing HFSS products being advertised to children, the more likely it is that advertisers will be challenged if they flout the rules.
Change on the horizon for nutrient profiling
A decade has passed since the inception of the Department of Health’s HFSS nutrient profile. Nutrition science and dietary recommendations have moved on during that time – particularly in the area of sugar. The Government has announced its commitment to updating the nutrient profile as part of their Childhood Obesity Plan. So we expect that change is coming, which will mean companies will have to reevaluate their products and associated adverts.
Currently, products are scored on a points basis. You score negative points for elements that are damaging to health (sugar, saturated fat, salt, etc) and positive for those that are healthy (fibre, vitamins, etc). The benchmarks are going to change, in relation to total sugars and fibre levels. The amount of total sugars allowed will very likely be reduced (scoring proportionately more negative points) and you’ll probably have to have more fibre to score the positive points. Essentially, it will make it easier for products to be classified as HFSS.
Need help understanding or applying the rules?
The rules are complex, especially alongside European regulations that UK companies need to be aware of too. If you’re a food business affected by these new CAP rules, we can help support you in meeting your obligations. We’re also able to advise you on reformulation opportunities to improve nutrient profiling scores coming out of the HFSS categorisation, and to make sure your products are following the most up-to-date guidelines. We’d love to discuss your needs: email us today – email firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information visit the CAP website or download the Advertising Guidance: Identifying brand advertising that has effect of promoting HFSS product
Over the last few years, coconut products – in particular coconut oil – have become very trendy. Celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie are enthusiastic consumers of the oil and one in 10 UK 16–24 year-olds currently buys it. Sales rose from around £1 million to £16.4 million in the three years up to 2016, according to the consumer research group Kantar Worldpanel.
The main driver? The popular belief that coconut oil or fat* is more nutritious than other types of fats.
But do the alleged health benefits stand up to scrutiny?
A summary of our assessment
Around 87% of coconut oil is saturated fat – more than in lard or butter. Despite what advocates of a ‘low carb, high fat’ diet suggest, scientific reviews and respected health organisations including the NHS and the British Nutrition Foundation concur that consuming too much saturated fat overall is bad for us.
As a result, the growing consumption of coconut products – especially coconut oil – is of great concern to those who work with scientific evidence-based nutrition. Coconut’s popularity is likely to add to the burden of obesity and heart disease, not reduce it.
So coconut products should be sold as an indulgent product, not a health food. Manufacturers, retailers and the media need to stop exploiting any health associations.
The scientific evidence on coconut oil
Coconut is bursting with cholesterol-raising saturated fats. Some companies marketing coconut products over-simplify what is a very complex topic. They assert that medium-chain length saturated fatty acids (MCTs) in coconut oil can actively protect heart health.
However, while some studies suggest some MCTs in isolation might have benefits, coconut oil contains a mix of fatty acids. Focusing on any benefits of a few MCTs while ignoring the detriments of the other fatty acids is at the least misleading and at worst very damaging for consumer health.
Saturated fats – a complex story
There are over 30 different types of saturated fatty acids. While there’s good evidence that some will have little, if any, effect on cholesterol, three in particular have been proven beyond a doubt to elevate cholesterol levels and are all contained in coconut oil in high amounts.
- Lauric acid, an MCT, makes up 14% of coconut oil (and is also found in palm kernel oil and cow’s and goat’s milk).
- Myristic acid, a long chain fatty acid (LCT), makes up 20% of coconut oil, and is in palm kernel oil and butter.
- Palmitic acid, an LCT, is found mainly in palm kernel oil, meat and full cream dairy milk and products, but also makes up 8% of coconut oil.
Clinical studies have consistently demonstrated that coconut oil increases total and LDL cholesterol – directly linked to higher cardiovascular disease risk. Despite some (not all) studies also demonstrating an increase in HDL (‘good’) cholesterol through the consumption of coconut oil, this is common with other saturated fats and does not negate the effect on LDL cholesterol.
Coconut products – putting statistics into context**
- Highest of all are the coconut oils and coconut butter, which are higher in saturated fat than any other commonly eaten food. Most coconut oils contain just short of nearly 90% saturated fat, compared with butter at 52%. Just 1½ tablespoons will provide the entire recommended daily intake of saturated fat.
- Four 100% natural coconut yogurt alternatives are currently on the market as ‘healthy alternatives’. Three of these provide between 17% and 20.5% saturated fat; the other a more modest 4.2% – which is still higher than full cream dairy yogurt. So an average 125g serving of three out of the four coconut yogurts will provide 21.3g to 25.6g saturated fat. That’s up to 128% of the maximum saturated fat daily recommendation. Other yogurt alternatives with coconut added to ingredients such as soya may not be high in saturated fat. It’s important to check the label.
- Creamed coconut (the block sort added to dishes like curries) is on average 58% saturated fat (some almost 70% saturated fats), which is more than butter (52%) and lard (44%)
- Canned coconut milk (made with coconut extract and water) averages 14.6% saturated fat, with reduced fat coconut milk weighing in at a somewhat lower 6.3% (three times greater than full cream dairy milk).
- Desiccated coconut is over 50% saturated fat and crops up increasingly in energy balls and similar products.
- Coconut drinks are not of concern in terms of saturated fat. On average a 200ml glass of coconut drink contains only 1.5g saturated fat (7.5% of the Reference Intake). Coconut water contains no saturates at all, or only a tiny trace.***
What needs to be done differently?
We think more responsibility is needed
Chefs, celebrities, manufacturers, retailers and the media all share a responsibility in how coconut products are positioned and portrayed. In some cases, there is a genuine ignorance and misunderstanding of the science, which could perhaps be addressed through more public health messaging.
HEART UK, the British Heart Foundation and Department of Health already advise that coconut oil should be consumed only in small quantities and the Change4Life website lists coconut oil within a category of foods labelled ‘leave these on the shelf!’
But these messages need more reinforcement. Manufacturers see that the market for coconut products is a lucrative one, so they are harder to influence. However, given that the majority of coconut products are excessively high in saturated fat (with the exception of waters and drinks), we believe that responsible manufacturers should position the products of concern as an indulgence rather than something that provides any health benefits.
The products should have clear nutrition labels, ideally using the traffic light system. Consumers should look out to see which are classified as high, medium or low, to help them cut down on their intake. The classifications are:
High: More than 5g saturates per 100g. May be colour-coded red.
Medium: Between 1.5g and 5g saturates per 100g. May be colour-coded amber.
Low: 1.5g saturates or less per 100g. May be colour-coded green.
*’Coconut oil’ and ‘coconut fat’ are synonymous. A fat is usually called an oil when it’s liquid at room temperature.
**Using data from Forestfield Software Ltd. Dietplan7 (2017)
***On-pack labelling of current leading brands on the market (October 2017)
A new policy paper from the European Public Health Association (EUPHA) calls upon all European States to establish a statutory Sustainable Nutrition Task force to drive better integration of nutrition and sustainability food issues. This follows a report from the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the Food Climate Research Network in 2016, Plates, Pyramids, Planet that found very limited integration of these issues thus far, in the development of food-based dietary guidelines.
As an umbrella group for over 70 public health associations and institutions across Europe, EUPHA are calling upon public health professionals to advocate for healthy diets that are also sustainable in a wider sense – incorporating the three pillars of economy, society and environment.
This new paper from the leading Not-For-Profit public health group in Europe adds further weight and drives momentum towards sustainable nutrition, which is already high on the global political agenda – recently reflected in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development resolution, accepted by the UN General Assembly in 2015.
The report defines sustainable diets as those that “diets are nutritionally adequate, safe, and healthy, while having low environmental impact. They are also culturally acceptable, accessible, equitable, economically fair and affordable, contributing to food and nutrition security and to healthy lifestyles for present and future generations”.
In a practical sense this means a shift towards more plant-based diets and a concomitant reduction in the consumption of animal-origin foods. As well as the avoidance of processed foods with added fats (particularly saturated and trans fats), sugar and salt.
Sustainable Nutrition Taskforce
To achieve their policy aim, EUPHA would like to see the establishment of Sustainable Nutrition Taskforces with national agendas to reframe policies, strategies and implementation programmes towards sustainable diets, away from the current food system, which is described as “low cost food at high cost to the environment”.
EUPHA prefers that through appropriate regulation, “the food industry would be required to produce healthy, nutritious (minimally processed) foods in a sustainable manner, which contain low contents of sugars, salt and additives that could adversely affect health; production and marketing should be honest and transparent, with consumer-friendly food labelling, and with restrictions on the marketing of junk food and sweet beverages, especially to children”.
Key Take Outs
– Sustainable nutrition is moving ever-further up the global political and policy agendas
– Expect to see more alignment of the dual issues of nutrition and sustainability in Government dietary guidelines, policies and programmes
– Food businesses should be actively reviewing their product portfolios and marketing strategies to align with the core tenets of sustainable nutrition
EUPHA’s report – Healthy and Sustainable Diets for European Countries is available here: https://eupha.org/repository/advocacy/EUPHA_report_on_healthy_and_sustainable_diets_20-05-2017.pdf
A recent publication in the American Journal of clinical nutrition presents the results of a study on the dietary intake of cow’s milk and non-cow’s milk beverages in children aged 24-72 months. The authors conclude that non-cow’s milk consumption is associated with lower childhood height.
There are multiple issues with the methodology used in this study that cast doubt on the value of its results and conclusions.
• The paper compares 4,632 cow’s milk drinkers with 643 non-cow’s milk drinkers. However, within these two groups there are 397 children consuming both cow and non-cow’s milk, meaning that only 4.8% (246) children in the study consume only non-cow’s milk.
o Additionally, data from the children consuming both cow’s and non-cow’s beverages are included in both groups and therefore the data are counted twice in the analysis.
• Non-cow’s milk is defined as any other type of milk not based on cow’s milk and included both plant and animal beverages e.g. goat’s milk, alongside soya and nut beverages which all have very different nutritional values. Additionally, many plant-based beverages are now fortified with vitamins and minerals. The authors therefore are completely unware of the nutritional values of the non-cow’s milk beverages and for the plant-based varieties, whether or not they were fortified nor can they make any connection between the groups for the quality and quantity of protein.
• The authors did not take other dietary factors into account. They propose that one of the key reasons why cow’s milk is important for height is achieving adequate protein intakes. Yet, without a full dietary analysis, they cannot be aware which children met their protein requirements and which did not. There are also many other protein sources in young children’s diets.
• The authors only adjusted data for maternal height but not for paternal height. The height of both parents should have been taken into account.
• The only dietary intake collected was how many 250ml cups of cow’s milk or non-cow’s milk was consumed per day. This was undertaken by questionnaire, which may be subject to measurement error or recall bias.
• It is not known when the children started consuming the non-cow’s milk drinks, or why they were consuming non-cow’s milk, both of which could have a significant effect on the results observed.
• The authors also recognise a potential height measurement error given the young age of the children.
• Finally, it is a cross-sectional study, not designed to look for causal effect, and thus the simplistic conclusion that height is effected by milk type cannot be drawn.
Our key take outs
Overall, the study is misleading and no conclusions can be drawn except that it is important for parents to be educated on children’s nutrition. Parents of children wishing or needing to avoid cow’s milk should seek dietetic advice to ensure that suitable alternatives are used and the nutritional quality of their overall diet is balanced. There is no reason why a healthy child following a balanced diet should not include calcium and vitamin fortified plant-based beverages. Additionally, soya beverages are similar to cow’s milk for protein quality and quantity.
At Nutrilicious we help to change the way people eat for better health and planet. We do this by helping organisations and health influencers including the media with nutrition and health advice and support. We love good science and credible creative news and headlines. We get a little upset however when they mislead or cause confusion.
Our nutrition professionals are either Registered Dietitians or Registered Nutritionists with at least a bachelor’s degree in dietetic or nutrition science and extensive experience in public health nutrition. They are bound by the Association for Nutrition and the British Dietetic Association respectively to continue professional development and follow standards of ethics, conduct and performance. This means you can be assured that our advice will always be up to date with the latest recommended guidance and practice.
How much is the UK public willing to pay for sweetened soft drinks?
The draft Finance Bill 2017 was published on Monday, 5th December. Not normally associated with health and nutrition news, this year, the introduction of the soft drinks levy has definitely hit the newspaper headlines. Still awaiting the finer details, the draft does provide further insight and confirms the details announced during the 2016 budget announcement. Out for comment, it will be interesting to see how industry reacts with many of the big players already making huge reformulation changes to ensure the few of their products are taxable.
So what is in the draft Finance bill?
All soft drinks which contain 5g or more of added sugars per 100ml will be in scope of the tax. This will also include alcoholic drinks of ABV up to 1.2%.
• Smallest manufacturers and importers of the smallest producers abroad.
• Soft drinks containing less than 5g added sugars per 100ml or no added sugars drinks.
• Drinks classified as ‘Foods for Special Groups’ which includes baby foods and formulae.
• Sugar containing milk-based drinks with a minimum of 75ml of milk per 100ml.
• The new trend of plant-based milk alternatives is also exempt as long as they are a source of calcium.
• Alcohol substitute drinks.
Transition period until April 2018 – providing reformulation time for all industry.
The two sugar thresholds still remain:
Products with 5-8g added sugars will be taxed at a lower level than those providing 8g or more of added sugar per 100ml.
The exact tax level has yet to be defined, but according to the Guardian Monday 5 December headlines, the levy would increase the cost of a 1L bottle of soft drink containing 5g sugar per 100ml by 18p and those containing 8g and more of sugar per 100ml by 24p.
Policy objective is to reduce childhood obesity through the reduction of total calories by removing additionally calories consumed via added sugars within soft drinks. It hopes to raise in excess of £500 million in the first year which they have promised to invest in physical activity for children.
The government wants to encourage industry to reduce sugar levels by:
• Reduction in portion size
• Import of lower sugars / reformulated drinks
Economic impact (Estimated by the Office for Budget Responsibility). Based on estimates made in 2016:
The levy will add a quarter of a percentage point to CPI growth in 2018 and 2019.
It is believed that the health of the nation will be significantly improved especially with a reduction of obesity related diseases e.g. diabetes type 2.
The main reason for the sugar focus is that it is seen as additional excess calories.
Impact on industry.
The government believes that 300 UK producers will need to register for the levy and the impact on their business should be negligible. However, the Coca Cola representative’s view at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Adult & Childhood Obesity Meeting on the 5th December, had a different opinion stating that the average cost per reformulation was in the range of £½million and that smaller manufacturers would not be able to absorb this cost.
Operational impact (HMRC costs): there will be a one-off capital costs to develop the system for tax collection and on-going resources costs for HMRC to implement this change and monitor compliance.
An additional comment made by at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Adult & Childhood Obesity Meeting on the 5th December, was that the government had yet to demonstrate clearly if this sugar tax will have a significant impact on obesity.