An outright ban on advertising foods high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) to children is being mooted as a way to combat childhood obesity.

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) is consulting on new rules for all non-broadcast media, including  online - strengthening existing restrictions on TV advertising.

The consultation explores whether the new rules should prohibit all HFSS product advertising in media targeted at, or of particular appeal, to children under 12 or under 16, and whether to prohibit the use of licensed characters, celebrities popular with children and promotions directed at children aged 11 and younger.

“We believe even a relatively small positive impact from new advertising restrictions could make a meaningful contribution to tackling this important health issue,” the CAP said.

“The focus on the non-broadcast rules is also informed by our understanding of changing media consumption habits. The growth in popularity of the internet has changed the way children interact with the commercial world. Research from Ofcom, showed that in 2015, 96% of 12- to 15-year-olds spent more time online than watching TV,” it added.

The consultation closes at 5pm on 22 July.

Since 2011, the Advertising Standards Agency has received 127 complaints about 117 non-broadcast advertisements relating to food and soft drink advertising and children.

Soft drinks manufacturer Britvic said it welcomed the CAP consultation. “We believe as brand owners we have a duty to protect children and that we need a series of changes to address the issue,” chief marketing officer Matt Barwell said

“These proposed changes would lead to greater alignment between the CAP codes and our internal benchmark, which we welcome. At Britvic, we never advertise to children under 12 years, do not use licensed characters in our advertising, never associate our brands with online games or gaming (advergames) or engage in any in-game marketing.

“Furthermore, we never advertise high sugar products to under 16s. In fact our family and kids’ brands Fruit Shoot and Robinson’s contain no added sugar.”