Ofcom, the UK's advertising watchdog, announced on Friday that it would impose a total ban on high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) food and drink advertisements of particular appeal to children under the age of 16, broadcast at any time of day or night on any channel.
The announcement of the new restrictions on food and soft drink advertising to children on TV is the culmination of a three-year debate on the role advertising plays in establishing eating habits.
But the Advertising Association claims that the new rules go well beyond creating more protection for primary school aged children, which the government had said was the main focus of concern.
"We are dismayed that Ofcom as an evidence-based regulator has become vulnerable to pressure and has departed from the first of its stated regulatory objectives, developed after extensive research, which is 'to reduce significantly the exposure of younger children to HFSS advertising'," said Advertising Association director general Andrew Brown.
"The advertising industry has long accepted that new restrictions on food advertising to younger children are necessary, but only as part of a much wider response to the obesity crisis that promotes healthy lifestyles."
The UK's food industry has also criticised Ofcom's decision, calling the blanket ban as "over the top".
"We are shocked that after a lengthy consultation Ofcom has moved the goalposts," said the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) director general Melanie Leech.
"We will of course be responding to the latest consultation but have strong concerns that the proposed regulations are over the top."
Advertisers are also concerned that the measures are far too stringent. The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) claimed that Ofcom's new restrictions would have no impact on the obesity crisis facing the UK, "which is a 'calories in, calories out' issue".
However, the IPA said that the measures would have an impact on over 90 per cent of all current food and drink product advertising that currently funds commercial programming.
"We are very concerned by this new change of direction by Ofcom," said IPA legal director Marina Palomba.
"What this means in practical terms is that a product such as Marmite, which is over 100 years old and full of micro-nutrients, will be banned because it exceeds the salt level permitted by the scientifically flawed nutritional profiling scheme adopted."
The advertising sector is therefore in agreement with many in the food industry that the new restrictions are disproportionate. It believes that the rules could cause substantial damage to businesses, including responsible food manufacturers, broadcasters, and advertising agencies as well as damage consumer choice.
Ofcom however claims that under this package of measures, in households where children's viewing includes a large number of programmes targeted at adults as well as programmes for children and young people, children under 16 would see 41 per cent fewer HFSS food and drink advertisements.
For under-9s the reduction would be 51 per cent.
There would also be greater reductions in digital television households where children's programmes, dedicated children's channels and programmes of particular appeal to under-16s make up a growing share of viewing by the young.
The watchdog said that here would be a short and focused consultation to seek views on extending restrictions to protect these older children. This will close before Christmas with the final determination in January 2007.
Advertising campaigns already underway or in the final stages of creative execution at the end of January 2007 would be allowed to be broadcast until the end of June 2007.