Health groups angry as McDonalds launches junior football program in Victoria

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 16th May 2012

A coalition of Victorian-based health groups, the Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC), has criticised fast food giant McDonalds for promoting its brand through a junior football program in Victoria. The OPC is partly funded by the Victorian Government through its agency VicHealth.

The ‘Mac Pack’ is a sporting program created by McDonald’s. The program uses prominent AFL players to teach children about sportsmanship through a dedicated website. McDonalds has been involved in promotions and sponsorships of junior sport and AFL activities for many years.

The Obesity Policy Coalition’s Executive Manager, Jane Martin said that programs such as Mac Pack are an “underhanded way of marketing fast food to children”.

As a lobby group, the Obesity Policy Coalition says it is aiming to influence changes in policy and regulation to help prevent obesity, particularly in children.

The Obesity Policy Coalition is calling on the Victorian Government to ban fast food companies from associating their brand with junior sport.

“Increasingly we are seeing unhealthy food companies attempting to buy themselves a ‘healthy halo’ by associating their brand with junior sport,” said Ms Martin.

Ms Martin also criticised the sponsorships of a list of other sponsored sports programs including McDonald’s sponsorship of Little Athletics and Hoop Time Basketball as well as Nestle’s Milo sponsorship of junior cricket.

The members of the Obesity Policy Coalition include VicHealth, Diabetes Australia-Victoria, The Cancer Council Victoria and the WHO Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention at Deakin University. Under the leadership of Ms Martin, the OPC has expressed strong criticism of the fast food sector and also remains one of the most vocal advocates still pushing for the introduction of traffic-light labelling of foods in Australia.