The ban on junk food advertising will hurt companies already prepared for a no-deal Brexit, industry leaders told Boris Johnson.
Some of Britain’s biggest food and drink companies have said they have played an important role in ‘feeding the nation’ during the coronavirus crisis and called on the Prime Minister to drop proposals to ban ads on the junk food.
The Department of Health and Social Affairs has launched a six-week consultation to explore the impact of introducing an online advertising ban.
In a letter from Mr Johnson, posted on Sunday, food and beverage industry executives said they had received a “disproportionate proposal with an incredibly short response time.”
The letter, signed by more than 800 food and drink manufacturers and 3,000 British brands, including the bosses of Mars, Britvic, Unilever and Kellogg’s, said the evidence behind the proposals lacked detail and efficiency.
He added: “The UK government is quite properly engaged in evidence-based policy making.
“However, the evidence base underlying these proposals lacks both detail and effectiveness.
“In addition, there is still no agreed definition of what foods the government is including in these proposals.
“They’re so wide they even capture family favorites, from peanut butter chocolate to sausage rolls.”
Mr Johnson has launched a campaign to slim down the UK after his own weight caused complications when he caught coronavirus earlier this year.
The food industry letter said the companies had a common ambition to “shift obesity rates” but said with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and Brexit on the horizon, they could not respond to the consultation on time.
He added: “Food and beverage manufacturers have played an indispensable role in feeding the nation during the Covid-19 crisis.
“The advertising and media industries, for their part, have been instrumental in supporting government communications by sharing critical public health messages with the public during the pandemic.
“We are also working intensively to minimize the inevitable disruption due to the end of the EU’s transition period and the introduction of new trade provisions of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
“These two elements in themselves are very important undertakings and are both made more perilous by the current operational and financial impacts of the pandemic.
“The critical volume of work that food companies face over the next few weeks means that at this time we simply cannot give this consultation the resources it deserves and demands.
“Something will have to give.”