Australia: No Change In Junk Food Advertising To Kids In 5 Years
A recent study has revealed that Australian children are exposed to the same number of unhealthy food and drink advertisements as they were five years ago, despite the introduction of self-regulatory initiatives by the food industry in 2009. The study, released in February 2017 by Cancer Council NSW and Sydney University researchers, found that 44 percent of food advertisements viewed by children were for unhealthy foods, with fast food ads being most frequent, followed by chocolate and confectionary, and sugary drinks.
Wendy Watson, the lead author of the study and Cancer Council’s nutrition programs manager, said the food industry’s voluntary codes are full of easily exploitable loopholes that allow companies to continue to advertise unhealthy products to children without consequence.
“Previous studies have highlighted loopholes within the food industry’s self-regulatory initiatives. The definitions of what constitutes ‘unhealthy food’ and when an ad is considered ‘advertising to children’ are not protecting children,” Watson says.
In 2009, the Australian Food and Grocery Council launched two voluntary codes, the Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative and Quick Service Restaurant Initiative for Responsible Advertising and Marketing to Children, with the aim of reducing ads targeting children for unhealthy products. There is no specific government regulation, however, that addresses unhealthy food advertising to children in Australia.
“For almost eight years now, junk food companies have been able to take advantage of these weak, self-defined codes because there has been nothing to stop them from doing so. We will continue to see no change in the rate of unhealthy food advertising to children unless government takes action,” Watson continues.
The Australian Obesity Policy Coalition highlights how these voluntary codes have little impact because they define television “primarily directed at children” as P-, C-, and G-rated shows that air in the morning or early evening. The definition fails to cover popular television shows, such as sporting games or reality television, watched by a large number of children during family time-slots of 6pm to 9pm.