The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has amended both its General and Children’s Commercial Communications Code in order to tighten restrictions on the promotion, particularly to children, of food and drinks classified as high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS). The amendments will come into effect on 2 September 2013.

HFSS foods are defined in the Codes as those that are assessed as high in fat, salt or sugar in accordance with the Nutrient Profiling Model developed by the UK Food Standards Authority. The model uses a scoring system with points allocated based on the nutrient content of 100g of a food or drink. 

The broad definition of ‘commercial communications’ in the existing code remains. The definition includes, for example, advertising, sponsorship and product placement.

The key new points to note in the revised Codes are as follows:

  • There is an outright prohibition on commercial communications for HFSS food products and/or services in children’s programmes.
  • Commercial communications that (i) promote HFSS food products that are deemed to be of particular interest to children; and/or (ii) are broadcast during and between children’s programmes (referred to as children’s commercial communications) cannot include:
    • where the majority of those watching and/or the target audience are under 18 years: licensed characters, i.e characters/personalities that have no direct association with the product promoted including for example, characters/personalities from a cinema release or a video game
    • where the majority of those watching and/or the target audience are under 13 years: health and nutrition claims or promotional offers 
  • A maximum of 25% of sold advertising time and only one in four advertisements for HFSS food products are permissible across the broadcast day. These limits are based on an average figure across the calendar year.  This requirement will apply from January 2014.

According to guidance notes issued by the BAI, where a children’s commercial communication promoting a food/drink is intended to be broadcast during children’s programming, the advertiser will have to provide the broadcaster with a Nutrition Profiling Certificate confirming that the food/drink in question is not HFSS and is thus not subject to the relevant restrictions.

As previously reported (view article here), it was originally proposed to classify cheese products as HFSS foods.  However, according to the BAI guidance notes, cheese-only products will not be categorised as HFSS, but this exemption will not apply to products which contain cheese, such as pizza.  Advertisements for cheese-only products will still need to comply with the general requirements in the Codes, including those in respect of diet and nutrition in the Children’s Code. Further, the guidance notes state that children’s commercial communications will be required to include an on-screen message stating the recommended daily allowance for cheese.