A ban on junk food advertising will harm businesses already braced for no-deal Brexit, industry leaders have told Boris Johnson.
Some of the UK’s biggest food and drink companies said they had played an important role in “feeding the nation” during the coronavirus crisis, and called on the Prime Minister to abandon proposals to ban junk food advertisements.
The Department of Health and Social Careh has launched a six-week consultation to explore the impact of introducing an online ad ban.
In a letter Mr Johnson, posted online on Sunday, food and drink industry leaders said they had been presented with a "disproportionate proposal with an impossibly short time period" for response.
The letter, signed by more than 800 food and drink manufacturers and 3,000 UK brands including bosses of Mars, Britvic, Unilever and Kellogg's, said the evidence underpinning the proposals was "lacking in detail and efficacy".
It added: "The UK Government is quite correctly committed to evidence-based policy making.
"However, the evidence base underpinning these proposals is lacking in both detail and efficacy.
"Additionally, there is still no agreed definition of which foods the Government is including in these proposals.
"They are so broad they even capture family favourites from chocolate to peanut butter 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 businesses had a shared ambition to "drive a step change in obesity" rates but said that with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and with Brexit on the horizon it could not respond to the consultation in time.
It added: "Food and drink manufactures have played an indispensable part in feeding the nation during the Covid-19 crisis.
"The advertising and media industries, for their part, have played an instrumental role in supporting Government communications by sharing vital public health messaging with the public over the course of the pandemic.
"We are also working intensively to minimise the inevitable disruption due to the end of the EU transition period and the introduction of new trading provisions from the Northern Ireland protocol.
"Both of these by themselves are very significant undertakings and are both made more perilous by the current operational and financial impacts of the pandemic.
"The sheer volume of critical work facing food companies in the next few weeks means that at this time we simply cannot give this consultation the resource it deserves and demands.
"Something will have to give."