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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02.Crunch time on junk food ads

 

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 Australians support tougher government restrictions to protect kids from the unhealthy influence of junk food marketing.

Burgerman writhing on the ground

The Burger Corp campaign

CHOICE has joined forces with the Coalition on Food Advertising to Children, The Cancer Council, Parents’ Jury and the Obesity Prevention Coalition and the Public Health Advocacy Institute of WA to create the Burger Corp campaign.

Burger Corp represents all food manufacturers who market unhealthy food to children. The Burger Corp campaign makes fun of the lengths that manufacturers will go to market junk food directly to children.

But junk food advertising is no joke. One in four Australian children is overweight or obese. Health experts have confirmed that food marketing influences children’s food preferences and their choices — and every parent knows it leads to relentless pestering for foods and drinks kids should be having less of.

Eighty-eight per cent (88%) of parents in our 2008 Newspoll survey thought junk food marketing undermined efforts to teach children to make healthy choices.

The Burger Corp campaign allows parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles — and anyone else who’s concerned about the health of Australian kids — to show their support for better government regulation of junk food advertising to kids.

Why this campaign?

CHOICE’s 2009 research Food Advertising to Children: Who’s the biggest loser? found that despite a variety of government standards and industry codes, children continue to be bombarded with ads for junk food, particularly between 6pm—9pm when more kids are watching TV. Six times as many kids are watching TV in the early evening, when their favourite reality TV and comedy shows air, compared with the traditional afternoon children’s (C) programs regulated under the Children’s Television Standards.

New voluntary industry initiatives will achieve little, because they’ll only restrict junk food ads during shows aimed at children under 12.

The government’s own National Preventative Health Taskforce believes a ban on junk food ads between 6am and 9pm should be considered. But the Australia Communications and Media Authority, defying health experts, resolved there is not enough evidence that banning junk food advertising will help in the fight against overweight and obesity.

What can you do?

03.Food advertising to children: who's the biggest loser?

 

The problem

Choice Who's the biggest loser posterWorld Consumer Rights Day 2009 (Sunday 15 March) saw consumer groups across the globe calling on governments to adopt tougher regulations to protect children from the unhealthy influence of junk food marketing.

CHOICE joined the Consumers International campaign by launching a new report, Who's the biggest loser?, showing that most junk food ads were aired between 6pm and 9pm, when there are no government restrictions but large numbers of children are watching.

The current regulatory system relies primarily on advertising codes developed and enforced by the food and marketing industries. It completely fails to protect children from the glut of junk food ads that appear during the programs that they watch most.

What we did

CHOICE put the spotlight on all the food and beverage ads aired on free-to-air TV channels Seven, Nine and Ten in Sydney between 6am and 9pm, during a one week period in April 2008.

To sort the healthy from the so-called junk food, CHOICE assessed each food ad using a nutrient profiling system developed by Food Standards Australia New Zealand. This healthy food test was originally developed in the UK as a tool for restricting junk food marketing to children.

What we found

We found that 54% of the food ads promoted junk foods that failed the nutrient criteria. Fast food was promoted in 27% of all food ads. 28% of ads might have passed if they modified the products they promoted, either by improving the nutritional quality of some foods or by removing the products that failed to criteria and only promoting the healthier products.

We also found that some of the shows most popular with kids featured the greatest number of junk food ads. Channel Ten featured eight out of the top 10 most popular programs with children and led the pack with the largest number of junk food ads.

Channel Ten’s So You Think You Can Dance was the most popular program with children that week and featured a total of 23 junk food ads across two episodes. The show promotes dance and physical activity, yet it featured nine ads for Pringles, five for Cadbury, three for McDonalds and two for Hungry Jacks.

On the other hand, Channel Ten’s The Biggest Loser — also popular with children — featured fewer junk food ads, suggesting a conscious decision by manufacturers and marketers to promote foods consistent with the show’s healthy eating message.

See our full report for more information.

What we want

CHOICE wants the Australian government to apply the FSANZ nutrient profiling and introduce UK-style food advertising regulation. This would help to level the playing field by encouraging manufacturers to make their foods healthier and simultaneously raise the profile of healthier foods.

CHOICE also wants the Australia government to support the Consumers International Code on Marketing of Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages to Children.

Fed Up! A Tale of Junk Food Marketing to Kids

We've listened to what you have to say and published your comments in the Fed Up story book - have a look!

CHOICE presented this storybook to representatives from 192 countries at this year's World Health Assembly in Geneva, as delegates debated a new draft code that would prohibit junk food marketing to children.

05.Global code to end junk food marketing to kids

 

Are you fed up with how junk food marketing targets children? A new code would make life easier.

The Issue

Collage of boy and foodCHOICE has long been campaigning for tougher restriction on junk food marketing to children. Current regulations and voluntary industry codes fail to protect children from the unhealthy influence of junk food marketing.

Parents are ultimately responsible for what their kids eat and for helping them to develop healthy eating habits. But the relentless, multi-million dollar promotion of junk food to kids is making the job far tougher for parents than it ought to be.

This problem is not unique to Australia. In 2006, food, drink and confectionary companies spent around US$13 billion on worldwide advertising. For every US$1 the World Health Organization spends on improving nutrition across the world, US$500 is spent by the food industry promoting processed foods.

This World Consumer Rights Day (Sunday 15 March 2009) CHOICE launched a new report, Who's the biggest loser? showing what's really being advertised most when children are watching TV.

New Global Code

Last year on World Consumer Rights Day consumer organisations throughout the world joined forces to promote a global consumer campaign to end junk food marketing to kids. The focus of the campaign was the launch of a new international Code on Marketing of Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages to Children.

The new code will:

  • Cover the promotion of food through all media including television, radio, cinema, internet, text messages, product placement, 'viral' marketing, magazines, posters, billboards, sponsorship, product packaging and point of sale promotion,
  • Ban TV and radio advertisements of unhealthy foods between 6am and 9pm, not just during children's (C) programs that only a small number of children watch,
  • Use a nutrient profiling system to determine whether they are healthy enough to be promoted directly to children; and
  • Stop the use of celebrities, cartoon characters and sporting personalitlies to promote unhealthy foods to chlidren, as well as competitions, giveaways and collectables that act as an incentive to buying these foods.

What We Want

Consumers International logoConsumers International presented the new code to the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland in May 2008, urging all member governments to support the recommendations in the code.

CHOICE is calling on the federal government to support the code. The new Australian government has an opportunity to show global leadership and respond to parents’ frustrations and help parents raise a healthier generation of Australian children.

What you can do

Take part in our survey and sign up to join our campaign so you can helps us influence the decision makers by showing them that Australian consumers want better regulation.

More Information

To find out more about the Consumers International campaign, visit www.junkfoodgeneration.org
Click here to learn more about the Code on Marketing of Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages to Children