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Junk food advertising to kids: it’s time to call it a day

Self-regulation by the food industry, when it comes to the promotion of junk food to kids, is a big fat flop, a fizzle and a failure.

That seems to be the consensus amongst public health and medical organisations, and they are stepping up calls for an end to advertising of junk to children.

A new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Children, Adolescents, Obesity and the Media”, (published online this week and coming out in the July issue of Pediatrics), recommends that paediatricians work with other child health advocates at the local, state and national levels for:

Meanwhile, the Australian Medical Association and the Public Health Association of Australia, amongst others, are also pushing for a ban on junk food advertising to children.

In a decade or so, perhaps the wider community will look back with bemusement on the days when big companies were allowed to push unhealthy foods on susceptible young children at a time of widespread concerns about obesity and poor nutrition.

Below are two related articles:

Kathy Chapman, co-author of a new study documenting children’s continuing exposure to junk food ads, calls for “clear and meaningful Government regulations that protect children at times they are actually watching television…”.

Jane Martin, Senior Policy Adviser, Obesity Policy Coalition, demolishes recent fight-back from the Australian Food and Grocery Council.

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Sugar coated regulations fail to save children from fast food ads

Kathy Chapman, Director Health Strategies, Cancer Council NSW, writes:

Fast food companies have failed to clean up their act under voluntary self regulations, with the total number of fast foods ads increasing on television since 2009, and no change in children’s exposure to unhealthy fast food ads. It proves what many of us feared; that the industry only pays lip service to effective and responsible advertising.

New research undertaken by the University of Sydney and Cancer Council this week (published in the Medical Journal of Australia), shows that children who watch up to three hours of television per day are exposed to more than 1640 fast food ads per year – a jump of more than 430 ads per year since industry regulations were introduced in August 2009.

This is contrary to the recommendations put forward by the World Health Organisation that any standards should be to reduce children’s exposure to fast-food and unhealthy food and drink advertising.

Does this come as a surprise? Not really.

When seven major fast food companies established the Australian Quick Service Restaurant Industry Initiative for Responsible Advertising and Marketing to Children (QSRI) in August 2009 it was to appease community concern on fast food advertising to children. However, this self-regulation only applies to a very narrow range of advertised foods. These regulations for example, don’t cover “family meals” sold by fast food outlets which will be eaten by both parents and their children. A loophole the industry no doubt takes advantage of.

But let’s face it; junk food companies have a vested interest in increasing profits from their products and allowing the food industry to self regulate is like leaving the fox in charge of the henhouse.

And so junk food ads targeting children will continue to slip through regulatory loopholes and pass subjective and ineffective  restrictions – all to the detriment of our children. The consistent scientific evidence shows us that food marketing influences what children want and what they ultimately eat and drink.

Surely it’s time for this sugar coated voluntary code to be scrapped and replaced with clear and meaningful Government regulations that protect children at times they are actually watching television (not just limited to after school!) and reduce their exposure to the wrong types of food.

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Categories: evidence-based issues, Food, health and medical research, obesity, Uncategorized

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18 Responses

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  1. ...] a food attention to self umpire is like withdrawal a fox in assign of a henhouse,” says Melissa Sweet during Croakey. Junk food peddlers have a vested seductiveness in offered their products to kids, and [...

    by Should fast food ads on TV be banned? – TV on Jun 29, 2011 at 5:02 am

  2. ...] a food attention to self umpire is like withdrawal a fox in assign of a henhouse,” says Melissa Sweet during Croakey. Junk food peddlers have a vested seductiveness in offered their products to kids, and [...

    by weightlossnetworks.com | Blog | Should fast food ads on TV be banned? on Jun 29, 2011 at 5:33 am

  3. ...] post: Junk food advertising to kids: it's time to call it a day | Croakey Bookmark to: This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged ads-increasing, [...

    by Junk food advertising to kids: it's time to call it a day | Croakey | Internet blog on Jun 29, 2011 at 11:25 am

  4. Just like the AMA and PHAA, the Obesity Policy Coalition has got it wrong again on industry codes regarding advertising to children.

    Jane Martin is very wrong and misguided to say that food industry codes have failed to reduce advertising to children. Industry’s Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative (RCMI) has been very effective in reducing the number of adverts targeting children for high fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) foods.

    The OPC, AMA and PHAA are demonstrably wrong in their misguided attacks on self-regulation – industry codes are working, with only a tiny proportion of all HFSS food and beverage ads now targeting children.

    The RCMI code has been so successful that the latest independent research in Australia found only 2.4 per cent of adverts on children’s TV were for high fat, sugar and salt foods – between March to May 2010.

    Read more: http://www.afgc.org.au/media-releases/851-wrong-diagnosis-by-ama-and-phaa-on-industry-codes.html

    by AFGC on Jun 29, 2011 at 1:38 pm

  5. ...] the food industry to self regulate is like leaving the fox in charge of the henhouse,” says Melissa Sweet at Croakey. Junk food peddlers have a vested interest in selling their products to kids, and they’ll [...

    by Should fast food ads on TV be banned? | www.greenerliving.co.za on Jun 29, 2011 at 1:59 pm

  6. The issue here is not the industry – it’s the government and the Health Minister, Nicola Roxon. Whether we like it or not the fast food industry is not into health; it is into making fast profits for its shareholders. That is what legally it is supposed to do.

    In October 2009 Ms Roxon gave a speech at the Australian Food and Grocery Council Dinner.

    In that she made her position very clear: “I must also take this opportunity to acknowledge the role that Kate Carnell has played as a member of the [National Preventative] Taskforce, and thank her and all Taskforce members for their hard work. In this room, you will know there was some criticism about Kate remaining on the Taskforce when she took this new role [of CEO of the Australian Food and Grocery Council]. But I have a high regard for Kate’s ability, and I saw no reason for people to fear industry engagement – quite the opposite.”

    So the Minister saw ‘no reason for people to fear industry engagement – quite the opposite.’

    Now what is “quite the opposite” of people fearing the industry? Loving it? Embracing it? Trusting it? Getting into bed with it?

    My fear is that Ms Roxon has done all of these. How naive can you get? And while you are at it, in making government policy, Ms Roxon, why not tap into the ‘ability’ of the CEOs of Coca-Cola, MacDonald’s, Hungry Jack’s, etc?

    by Gavin Mooney on Jun 29, 2011 at 2:06 pm

  7. self-regulation by ANY industry is an oxymoron.

    The corporation I’m watching out the window as I write is savaging the environment. Spraying toxins banned in other countries, compacting soil, drying out Murray catchment streams, ruining good farmland in behalf of a foreign multinational corporation…which is flogging the land now it’s been stripped. All vehicles are unmarked. There’s no website. Just a single phone number. No names. Just a patch of rented concrete with a portable building as HQ…

    That’s why Crikey should be a mole farm, a whistle-blower haven, a creche for assangistas…

    But it’s not. It’s primarily a fumerole for climate cult zealots.

    by Frank Campbell on Jun 29, 2011 at 3:15 pm

  8. If you rely on tv for your news, you are more likely to agree with the AFGC that ‘there is no evidence linking food advertising with childhood obesity’ and that it’s more about personal factors. Television, it seems, is the ideal medium for conveying simple messages such as this. Newspapers are more likely than tv to mention system-level factors such as marketing and the environment. In short, researchers have found that where you get your news could play a significant role in determining what you perceive as the best strategy for addressing childhood obesity ['News Media Framing of Childhood Obesity in the U.S. from 2000 to 2009' by Colleen L. Barry, Marian Jarlenski, Rachel Grob, Mark Schlesinger and Sarah E. Gollust]. See summary and discussion at: http://www.jhsph.edu/publichealthnews/press_releases/2011/barry_media_obesity.html

    by Margo on Jun 29, 2011 at 7:31 pm

  9. ...] a food attention to self umpire is like withdrawal a fox in assign of a henhouse,” says Melissa Sweet during Croakey. Junk food peddlers have a vested seductiveness in offered their products to kids, and [...

    by Should fast food ads on TV be banned? – food health on Jun 29, 2011 at 8:54 pm

  10. ...] push for junk food ad banNinemsnDon't market junk food to kids, doctors sayLos Angeles TimesJunk food advertising to kids: it's time to call it a dayCrikey (blog)HealthNews -Patch.com -The Stir (blog)all 343 news [...

    by Pediatricians: Get junk-food ads off TV – Columbus Dispatch | World News Magazine on Jun 29, 2011 at 10:57 pm

  11. ...] To Fight ObesityNPR (blog)UPDATED: Will a Ban on Junk Food Ads Curb Childhood Obesity?HealthNewsCrikey (blog) -TIME -CBS Newssafest cleaning products Found 352 Related [...

    by U.S. Doctors: Ban Fast Food Ads on TV | Shaklee 100% Guaranteed Safest Cleaning Products on Jun 30, 2011 at 1:00 am

  12. The peeps at the AFGC must be great at Scrabble, because they sure are hell bent on playing with words!

    While the OPC makes a case about the negative impact of children’s overall exposure to junk food advertising, and presents data that shows industry “self-regulation [of junk food advertising to children] has had no impact on children’s exposure to fast food advertising,” the AFGC continues to push it’s flimsy line that it has reduced the number of ads targeting children, based on analysis of the small window of time per days that’s technically considered ‘Children’s programming’ (this is only one 30 minute TV show per week day, for example).

    Isn’t it time to leave the word games to the iPhone, and started talking the same language?

    by Caitlin on Jun 30, 2011 at 12:06 pm

  13. The ‘protection’ from junk food advertising offered by food industry self-regulatory codes is limited at the best of times. The fact the codes do not operate during the times of day most children are watching TV is unfair to parents and children and does little to absolve the industry of their responsibility in tackling Australia’s obesity problem.

    Members of the Parents Jury consistently argue for the regulation of junk food advertising. Almost 94% of parents support a ban on junk food advertising during peak viewing times for children. They also want restrictions on unhealthy food branding of community sporting events and their messages being beamed through social media.

    The message is clear. Parents want to take responsibility for the health of their children by protecting them from junk food advertising. If current advertisements on television are anything to go by, the industry is working against them.

    by The Parents Jury on Jun 30, 2011 at 4:40 pm

  14. The so-called independent research on the AFGC’s so-called Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative was conducted by…wait for it…the AFGC. And as far as we can see, the only place this research has been published is on the AFGC website. http://www.afgc.org.au/industry-codes/advertising-kids/rcmi-reports-2009.html

    Contrast this with the peer-reviewed study conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Sydney and Cancer Council NSW and published in the International Journal of Pediatric Obesity. http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/1035_usyd.pdf

    This study found that there was no reduction in the rate of non-core food advertising during children’s peak viewing periods following the introduction of the AFGC’s Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative.

    In any case, it’s little wonder the AFGC’s own research would come up with the figure of 2.4% of ads for unhealthy foods during kids’ programs – given that the AFGC’s definition of kids’ programs exempts the highest rating programs for kids, such as Junior Masterchef (featuring 8-12 year old contestants) and The Simpsons, and given that the nutrition criteria used to assess products advertised by RCMI companies were set by the companies themselves.

    More telling is the absence of any comment from the AFGC about the other claims referred to by the OPC, such as the AFGC’s claimed rate of obesity increase in Quebec that was based on non-existent research.

    by Obesity Policy Coalition on Jun 30, 2011 at 5:02 pm

  15. ...] SunDon't market junk food to kids, doctors sayLos Angeles TimesHealthNews -Crikey (blog) -Ninemsnall 358 news [...

    by American Academy of Pediatrics Recommends “Junk Food” Advertising Ban – Quality Assurance & Food Safety | World News Magazine on Jul 1, 2011 at 10:53 am

  16. Sorry AFGC, but as long as sites like happymeal.com.au are classified (under industry’s definition) as NOT marketing to children, then I will take everything you say with a grain of blood-pressure-increasing salt.

    Now excuse me while I visit that site, check out the latest toys, plays some awesome games, learn new activities and watch some cartoons…

    by Shooba on Jul 1, 2011 at 11:29 am

  17. ...] policy analyst Jennifer Doggett responds to a recent Croakey post calling for an end to junk food advertising to [...

    by Public health advocates accused of oversimplifying the issues around junk food advertising to kids | Croakey on Jul 4, 2011 at 5:40 pm

  18. ...] process researcher Jennifer Doggett responds to a new Croakey post calling for an finish to junk food graduation to [...

    by Public health advocates accused of oversimplifying the issues around junk food advertising to kids – health issues on Jul 4, 2011 at 8:58 pm

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