Renewed calls for junk food ad ban on kids’ TV

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 5th May 2009

A coalition of parent, health and consumer groups have renewed calls for tougher advertising regulations, after releasing figures suggesting Australian children encounter about 2200 junk food advertisements on television per year.

The Coalition on Food Advertising to Children (CFAC), which includes 15 prominent Australian public groups including the Cancer Council, Australian Medical Association and Choice, believe that children who watch two hours of television per day see 18 hours per year of unhealthy advertisements for food like chips, burgers, confectionery and soft drinks.

Donut Boy

Upon releasing their new figures the CFAC launched a new online campaign that draws comparisons between junk food commercials and door-to-door salesmen touting for kids’ business. The campaign urges a government ban on unhealthy food advertisements during children’s viewing hours, and enables viewers to email the Federal Minister for Health to express their concern.

“The Federal Government’s efforts to promote healthy lifestyle messages can’t compete with the food industry, when the government is outspent six to one on marketing,” Kathy Chapman, nutritionist and Chair of CFAC, argued.

“The health of Australia’s children, now and into the future, is of paramount importance. Food advertising influences what food children want, ask for, and eat,” AMA President, Dr Rosanna Capolingua, added. “Combating obesity is a shared responsibility. The broadcast industry and broadcast regulatory authorities have a significant role to play in these efforts.”

Industry response

The Australian food and grocery sector introduced its own Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative on 1 January 2009. Companies participating in this initiative have pledged to 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,” Australian Food and Grocery Council CEO Kate Carnell 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.”

“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.”

Future legislation?

The Greens introduced the Protecting Children from Junk Food Advertising Bill 2009 to the Senate earlier this year, a follow-up on their Junk Food Advertising Bill 2008 – which failed to garner strong Senate support. Once again the Coalition and Labor Party indicated plans to vote down the revised Bill, with Labor keen to wait until the Preventative Health Taskforce presents their recommendations for the future health policy of Australia.

The Taskforce is due to report their findings in June, with a number of policy recommendations that could impact all in the food industry.