Junk food ad bans find resistance in the Senate

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 3rd December 2008

A Senate inquiry has knocked back a Bill proposing a ban on junk food advertising to children.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council has welcomed the release of a Senate Inquiry into the ‘Protecting Children from Junk Food Advertising Broadcasting Amendment) Bill 2008’.

AFGC CEO Kate Carnell said that the ‘fundamentally flawed’ bill was unnecessary as industry is already set to introduce its own Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative, on 1 January 2009.

Ms Carnell added that companies participating in this initiative will publicly commit to only advertise to children under 12 when it will further the goal of promoting healthy dietary choices and healthy lifestyles. “Each participant will develop and make publicly available an individual company action plan that outlines how they will meet the initiatives core principles,” she advised. “Participants will not advertise food and beverage products to children under 12 in any media unless those products represent healthy dietary choices, consistent with established scientific or Australian government standards.”

“Further, companies will also commit to only advertise products in the context of promoting good dietary habits and physical activity,” Ms Carnell said. “The Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiatives is supported by major food and beverage manufacturers, the Australian Association of National Advertisers and other industry groups. These companies represent the majority of food and beverage manufacturing in Australia.”

“Industry looks forward to continuing to work with governments and other stakeholders on implementing its holistic approach to issues associated with advertising and more broadly, issues associated with childhood obesity,” Ms Carnell concluded.

The Bill was introduced by the Greens and had strong support from a number of health and consumer groups. Family First Senator Steve Fielding was also disappointed with the results of the inquiry, which he believed to be tainted by lobbying from industry. “The two big parties are joining forces to look after the big end of town and they are paying lip service to ordinary Australians’ concerns about everyday issues,” Mr Fielding claimed, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The Committee suggested that it could not be sure a junk food ad ban would have the desired impact, with a multifaceted approach more desirable.

“The Committee believes it is premature to bring forward legislative changes to food and beverage advertising while the National Obesity Strategy is developed by the National Preventative Health Taskforce and before the industry’s initiatives in relation to responsible advertising can be properly assessed,” they concluded.