Fed up with junk food marketing

We’re campaigning to stop the marketing of unhealthy food to kids.
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  • Updated:15 May 2008

01.Selling junk food to children

Child eating hamburger

Latest campaign news

The Federal Government is about to make some big decisions about regulating junk food marketing to kids. Join our Burger Corp campaign and show them that Australian’s support tougher government restrictions to protect kids from the unhealthy influence of junk food marketing.

The Issue

Current regulation does not protect children from being bombarded with ads for junk food.

Around 54% of TV food ads aired between 6am and 9pm are for unhealthy foods. The volume of unhealthy food ads increases when children are most likely to be viewing – early evening and Saturday mornings.

As the Coalition on Food Advertising to Children reports:

  • One in three television advertisements during children’s viewing times in Australia are for food.
  • Of those, studies repeatedly find that between 55 – 81 % are for foods high in fat and/or high in sugar.

Choice campaigning for you buttonFor example, in May 2007 the NSW Centre for Overweight and Obesity found there were 10 ads per hour for high fat and /or sugary foods during peak children’s viewing times on Sydney commercial television, up from nine per hour in 2006.

But it's much more than TV ads. Supermarket shelves carry a range of products featuring kids’ favourite characters like Nemo, Bratz and Barbie. At the movies, in magazines or online – games, toys, celebrities and popular cartoon characters are used to promote an array of sugary and high-fat snacks. On the sporting field, sponsorship deals mean the logos of fast-food companies are emblazoned on children’s chests as they sprint towards the finish line.

Other common marketing techniques include:

  • Competitions to win a holiday, bike or MP3 player.
  • Collecting product tokens to redeem a prizeV
  • Fast food meal deals where you need to visit the outlet every week to collect the entire set of toys.
  • The use of children’s cartoon characters, media personalities and sporting heroes to promote foods to kids.
  • Sponsorship of school sports.
  • The use of junk foods in fundraising.

If ads didn’t influences kids, food manufacturers wouldn’t spend millions on them every year.

What we want

We want to support parents to make healthy choices for their children.

Ultimately, parents are responsible for what children eat at home and what they send to school in their lunchboxes. Parents are also responsible for ensuring that kids have a healthy start to life by helping them to develop good eating habits. But food marketing makes parents’ jobs that much harder by tempting children with salty, fatty or sugary foods which they inevitably pester their parents to buy.

  • In 2006, a CHOICE-commissioned Newspoll survey showed that 89% of respondents were in favour of restricting advertising of unhealthy foods during TV programs that are popular with children.
  • In 2008, our Newspoll survey found that 88% of parents think that junk food marketing undermines their efforts to encourage their children to eat healthy.

It's time to support healthy kids and happier parents with action.

In February 2008, the South Australian Government called for a voluntary nationwide withdrawal of junk food ads during children's television viewing, following a similar ban in the UK being phased in now.

It's a good start. As outlined in our submission to the Australia Communications and Media Authority on the review of the Children's Television Standards, CHOICE wants to see government regulation of all forms of food marketing to children. This includes:

  • Extending regulation to cover the promotion of food through all media including but not limited to television, radio, cinema, internet, text messages, product placement, ‘viral’ marketing, magazines, posters, billboards, sponsorship, product packaging and point of sale promotion.
  • Assessing products against a nutrient profiling system (such as the system developed by Food Standards Australia New Zealand) to determine whether they are healthy enough to be promoted directly to children.
  • Applying TV advertising restrictions during programs and times that most children are actually watching, not just children’s (C) programs that only a small number of children watch.
  • Restricting the use of celebrities, cartoon characters and sporting personalities to promote unhealthy foods to children, as well as competitions, giveaways and collectables that act as an incentive to buying these foods.

We also want a single contact point for all advertising and marketing complaints so that consumers do not need a detailed understanding of the various forms of regulation and codes of practice in order to support the complaint.

What we are doing

CHOICE continues to advocate for better regulation of food marketing to children, in order to assist parents to make healthy choices for their kids.

We're inviting Australians to join in a global campaign to stop the glut of junk food marketing to kids - coordinating our efforts with those of consumer advocacy groups all over the world.

Right now, we're inviting consumers to help influence decision-makers by sharing how junk food marketing to children impacts on kids and families in the real world. We want them to hear your story.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is reviewing the Australia's Children’s Television Standards. In August 2007 CHOICE made a submission on the ACMA issues paper calling for regulation of unhealthy food ads to children based on the nutrient profiling system developed by Food Standards Australia New Zealand.

What you can do

CHOICE wants to put a human face to the issue of junk food marketing to kids. Reckon you can tell a good story about how all that advertising targets the child in your life? Email your own thoughts, photos (include captions) or videos to ci@choice.com.au

Participate in the Parents Jury, a web-based network of parents that lobby to reduce the level of junk food marketing to kids.

More information

Children's Health or Corporate Wealth, a briefing paper by the Coalition on Food Advertising to Children (CFAC).

Media Release: SA to ban junk food ads to kids.

ABC News report SA government takes on junk food advertising. 

Code won’t change what children see on TV — Opinion Editorial, SMH 27 July 2006 

CHOICE's submission on the AANA draft Food and Beverages Marketing Communication Code. 

CHOICE's letter to Health Ministers calling for improved regulation of food marketing to children (10 July 2006).

Look into my eyes, Consuming Interest Spring 2005 calling for the food and advertising industries to stop misleading marketing.

CHOICE report: Little bellies, big problems: how parents, industry and government can solve Australia's obesity crisis. 

CHOICE's submission to FSANZ on Nutrition, Health and Related Claims.


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