Tower Hamlets joins ranks of junk food detractors

Tower Hamlets has become the latest local authority to restrict the advertising of unhealthy food and drink within its jurisdiction.

The London borough’s cabinet recently approved a new healthier advertising policy which will restrict the advertising of products high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) on all council-owned estates, assets and through procured advertising service contracts.

It said the aim is to reduce exposure to unhealthy images that are often targeted at children, young adults and people living in more disadvantaged areas.

Tower Hamlets has high rates of childhood obesity with over 1 in 5 children in school reception year classed either as overweight or very overweight, higher than the England average.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman said the policy was part of a much larger programme of work to promote child health in the borough and would contribute towards the council’s priority to reduce health inequalities. He added that he hoped it would encourage other organisations in Tower Hamlets to adopt a similar policy.

While the UK Government dithers over the introduction of policies designed to tackle obesity local authorities are forging ahead with their own strategies. Tower Hamlets is the seventh local authority to bring in a healthier food advertising policy after the Mayor of London, with support from food and farming charity Sustain, first brought in the policy across the Transport for London network in 2019. Six other local authorities across the UK have since brought in a policy: Haringey, Southwark, Merton, Greenwich, Bristol and Barnsley.

“We’re delighted to have worked with Tower Hamlets Council to remove the advertising spotlight off unhealthy foods and drinks,” said Fran Bernhardt, Children's Food Campaign coordinator at Sustain. “They join a growing movement of local authorities taking a stand for child health with more than 100 councils coming to Sustain for advice on their own policies. This evidence-based policy has now become a no-brainer of a public health intervention and we hope the terrific news from Tower Hamlets will inspire councils everywhere to take this important step for child health.”

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