Queensland mulls junk food ad bans

Posted by James Ferre on 26th August 2008

The Bligh Government is considering a blanket ban of junk food advertising on children’s television as part of a strategy to help reverse the alarming rate of childhood obesity in Queensland.

Premier Anna Bligh and Health Minister Stephen Robertson today released a discussion paper inviting public feedback on restricting junk food ads, the first initiative under today’s ‘Advancing Health Action – Australia’s Healthiest People’.

“My Government puts a premium on children’s health and wellbeing and has already demonstrated it isn’t afraid to make the tough decisions about our future,” Ms Bligh claimed. “… Queensland is now facing a problem of epidemic proportions that will have devastating consequences if left unchecked.”

“One in five children aged between 5 and 17 are overweight or obese and this rate is growing,” Ms Bligh advised. “Children as young as five now have type 2 diabetes which was solely considered an adult condition only about a decade ago. Overweight children are 78% more likely to become overweight adults, leading to the well-supported prediction that this generation of kids will be the first to die younger than their parents.”

Premier Bligh reported that the Government had already introduced other measures to curb obesity rates and a junk food ad ban was a possible next step. “We’ve cleaned up school canteen menus, entrenched weekly physical activity in state school curricula and public campaigns encouraging healthier eating and more exercise have really hit home.”

“But it’s not enough and we can no longer ignore the influence TV can wield over our children’s food choices,” Ms Bligh suggested. “Quite frankly, junk food advertising is an issue that’s been long overdue for widespread discussion in our community. I want to see parents, academics, non-government organisations, industry even children all talking about it and sharing their views with Government.”

Mr Robertson said, on average, Queensland children who watched television did so for more than two hours a day – exposing them at least 60 ads a week promoting foods that are high in energy and low in nutrients. “Three out of every four food ads on children’s TV now promote junk foods or drinks – it’s increased from two out of three food ads in two years,” Mr Robertson said.

“And it’s abundantly clear that fast food chains, confectionery and soft drink companies target our children through television,” he claimed.
Mr Robertson added that many countries had already moved towards banning junk food advertising to children including the UK, Sweden, New Zealand, Denmark, Ireland and Italy.

Mr Robertson said the Queensland Government had the power to restrict TV advertising in state legislation. “South Australia has also released a discussion paper inviting public feedback on junk food advertising today,” he said.

The South Australian Government earlier this year reported that they would endeavour to promote a voluntary ban, with legislation possible if the voluntary ban did not work.

Interested parties can view the discussion paper at www.qld.gov.au or health.qld.gov.au or by emailing a request to tvfoodads@health.qld.gov.au. Feedback needs to be submitted by 31 October, 2008.

The discussion paper includes three possible times to ban junk food advertising:

a. Children’s peak viewing times – 7.00am to 9.00am and 5.00pm to 8.30pm weekdays and weekends. Currently, 209,000 Queensland children are watching TV during these hours every day.

b. Children’s general viewing times – 7.00am to 8.30pm every day. Approximately 289,000 children watch TV during this period.

c. Children’s viewing times when they are unlikely to be supervised – 7.00am to 9.00am and 3.00pm to 6.00pm weekdays and 7.00am to 6.00pm weekends. Currently, 98,000 children are watching TV during these hours every day.