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Singapore – New Guidelines Proposed For Food Advertising To Children.

18 March, 2014

 

 

Introduction


On 12 March 2014, Parliamentary Secretary for Health Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim announced in Parliament that new guidelines are being drafted to limit the advertising of food and beverages high in fat, sugar and salt to children. He stated that these new guidelines will be incorporated into the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore’s (“ASAS”) Singapore Code of Advertising Practice (“SCAP”) and will take effect from January 2015.


Background


These new guidelines reflect the Government’s concern over childhood obesity as obese children tend to stay obese as adults and obesity increases the risks of non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes. In targeting food advertising, the Government considered literature from the World Health Organisation (“WHO”) which shows that “food advertising influences children’s food preferences, purchase requests to parents, food choices and consumption patterns”.


Consequently and in line with WHO’s resolution in 2010 urging member states to introduce controls on food advertising to children, Singapore, a member state, has moved to introduce these new guidelines.


Proposed Guidelines


Beyond the above announcement, the Ministry of Health (“MOH”) has reportedly indicated that a four-month grace period will be given for the industry to adapt to the new guidelines and that an independent third-party auditor will be appointed to ensure compliance. MOH also informed that the nutrition criteria which will determine what food and beverage can be advertised to children will be finalised by September 2014.

 

Earlier in November 2012, the Health Promotion Board in its public consultation on the Proposed Strengthening of Food Advertising Guidelines for Children, also stated that these new guidelines will target younger children and apply to television and print media. Specifically, these guidelines will limit advertising of food high in fat, sugar and salt to children in situations where the audience would be predominantly children. These situations include hours during which children programmes are aired on free-to-air channels, dedicated children’s channels for subscription television, and print media targeted at children.


As these new guidelines will be part of SCAP, enforcement of these guidelines will be undertaken by ASAS, the self-regulatory body of Singapore’s advertising industry. Where advertisers violate SCAP, the council of ASAS, which comprises major media owners in Singapore and the Association of Media Owners (Singapore), amongst other organisations and associations, will issue sanctions against errant advertisers.
Specifically, ASAS may direct media owners to withhold advertising space or time from advertisers and withdraw trading privileges from advertising agencies. ASA may also publicly “name and shame” recalcitrant offenders.


Currently, SCAP has only one clause that relates to food and beverage advertisements for children, which states that “advertisements should not actively encourage children to eat excessively throughout the day or to replace main meals with confectionery or snack foods”.


More details on these new guidelines for food advertising to children, including the nutrition criteria mentioned above and the precise scope of the guidelines, are expected to emerge in the coming months.


Concluding Words


These new guidelines reflect a determined effort by the Government to stem the tide against obesity, especially childhood obesity in Singapore. While the guidelines are to be self-policed by the industry via ASAS, the fact that an independent auditor will be appointed to ensure compliance and that the ASAS council includes key stakeholders such as MOH and the Association of Media Owners (Singapore) mean that enforcement of the guidelines will likely be strict.


Businesses and advertisers would thus be well advised to be vigilant in learning about the requirements of these new guidelines as and when more details are released and comply with these new guidelines when they come into effect in January 2015.

 

Rajah & Tann

 

For further information, please contact:

 

Kala Anandarajah, Partner, Rajah & Tann
kala.anandarajah@rajahtann.com


Steve Tan, Partner, Rajah & Tann
steve.tan@rajahtann.com

 

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