Singapore government to announce food advertising restrictions


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On 31 July, members of Food Industry Asia (FIA) met with the nutrition team from the Singapore Health Promotions Board to discuss restrictions on advertising to children and Guideline Daily Allowances (GDA's).

In a clear response to political pressure, the HPB stated its intention to announce significant voluntary advertising restrictions both in and around children's television programmes (as identified by Mediacorp) as well during as peak viewing times. The information used by HPB did not include any % audience viewership data.

The HPB made it clear that their plans to restrict advertising in children's programmes are “set in stone” while they may be open to further discussion as to the restrictions that are to be imposed on peak viewership.

In a new development, they also explained that for a packaged food product to be advertised during children's television programmes (incl. corporate sponsorship), the product must meet the nutrient criteria for the Healthy Choices scheme AND “50% of all the products from that company must also meet the criteria”. In the case of fast foods (no definition supplied), the same rule applies, but only 30% of the company's products must meet HCS criteria.

Timing of announcement: HPB will make the announcement in the last quarter of this year with 6 months grace period, open for extension for 12 months.

Enforcement & penalties: There is no clear plan for how the guidelines will be enforced but HPB expects companies to comply with the letter and spirit of the rules.

  • Nutrition criteria will be based on existing Healthier Choice Symbol criteria. HPB expressed willingness to discuss relevant revision of such criteria – although this will not delay their plans.
  • The HPB guidelines will apply during specific children programme segments defined by Mediacorp & also prime time slot e.g. 6-12 midnight for Channel 5, 6-11pm for Channel 8 etc. (peak viewership)
  • The HPB restrictions are not based on concrete % viewership by children but rather peak time of the day when HPB believes children are watching TV the most.
  • When questioned, HPB expressed openness for negotiation on prime time slots.
  • Advertising will include sponsorships of programmes
  • When questioned about enforcement, HPB will set up a monitoring committee with the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) which comprises the media & advertisers.

Key Observations
  • Political mandate to commence restrictions is difficult for HPB to reverse as this is top down, although HPB will consider industry input for the nutrition criteria, prime time slots and other details of the guidelines – although any further dialogue will not delay their plans to implement the restrictions.
  • HPB seems to lack understanding of self-regulation as they referred to the guidelines as a self-regulatory approach when in reality it will be a regulation – although there is no clear mechanism to ensure compliance.

  • HPB is positive about working with FIA on GDA implementation guidelines with the industry.
  • Core nutrients will be energy, saturated fat, trans fat, sodium & sugar
  • They consider Codex NRV and WHO recommended values : 2000kcal for energy, 20g SFA, 2000mg sodium
  • Proposed serving size standardisation for major food categories

Source: Food Industry Asia (FIA)

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