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:
- a ban on junk food advertising;
- restrictions on interactive food advertising to children via digital media;
- funding for research into the health and psychosocial effects of heavy media use in children; and
- more prosocial media platforms and resources for children that encourage them to choose healthy foods.
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.
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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