Advertising for unhealthy foods on websites aimed at children has significantly reduced, a watchdog has said.
Age-restricted adverts for food with high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) on sites designed for children dropped around 74%, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said in its report.
The ASA found 27 HFSS ads in children’s media that were in breach of rules between October and December last year, compared to 102 in the previous quarter.
As part of the study it monitored 49 websites and 12 YouTube channels, and found a total of 47 ads that broke advertising rules.
No ads for e-cigarettes or tobacco products were picked up during the three-month period, the ASA said, while it found three for gambling, six for alcohol and 11 for weight loss.
The report published on Thursday forms part of the ASA’s year-long project to identify and tackle age-restricted ads appearing on websites and YouTube channels that attract a young audience.
Advertisers placing age-restricted ads online are required, under the Advertising Code, to target their content away from young audiences.
ASA’s chief executive, Guy Parker, said: “We’re pleased to see the number of age-restricted ads we picked up on, in particular for HFSS food and drink, reduce significantly.
“We remain alive to concerns and we will be monitoring and reporting on this again.
“But we’re making significant progress in our ambition to build a culture of zero tolerance for age-restricted ads appearing on websites aimed at children and we expect that progress to continue.”
The ASA said follow-up work with HFSS advertisers had a positive impact on reducing the number of breaches, and that it expected to see further improvements in its fourth monitoring sweep of websites between January to March 2021 before publishing a final report in the summer.
It said it will reveal repeat offenders “if there are any” and that it will consider similar monitoring in the future.
It comes as the Government announced in November its intention to ban HFSS products being shown on TV and online before 9pm.
Research by the NHS has found that one in three children leave primary school overweight, or obese, and almost two-thirds of adults in England are overweight or living with obesity.