Kids big losers from prime-time junk ads


CHOICE calls for overhaul of food ads

New research by consumer group CHOICE has exposed the TV shows promoting the greatest number of junk food ads. CHOICE found that most junk food ads were aired between 6pm and 9pm, when there are no government restrictions but large numbers of children are watching.

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.

Channel Ten, which featured eight out of the top 10 most popular programs with children, also led the pack with the largest number of junk food ads.

“Ten had 41% of all junk food ads for that week - compared to 37% on Channel Nine and only 23% on Channel Seven,” said CHOICE Senior Food Policy Officer Clare Hughes speaking on World Consumer Rights Day (Sunday March 15).

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.

“It’s pretty incredible that children’s favourite show that week, which promotes dance and physical activity, was well funded by junk food ads – which were more than 65% of food ads featured during the program,” said Hughes.

The show with the most junk food ads that week was the sitcom Friends, with 11 junk food ads in a single half-hour episode.

“The problem is, most kids are not watching TV during designated children’s programs, where there’s some government regulation around junk food marketing. Six times as many children are watching TV between 7.30pm and 8pm – precisely when junk food ads are at their peak,” said Hughes.

To sort the healthy from the so-called junk food, CHOICE assessed each food ad using a nutrient profiling criteria. The healthy food test was originally developed in the UK as a tool for restricting junk food marketing to children. CHOICE is calling for it to be used in Australia for the same purpose.

“What it gives us is an objective, scientifically rigorous tool for levelling the playing field and encouraging manufacturers and advertisers to lift their game. If we introduced UK-style restrictions here more than half (54%) of the food ads that Aussie kids currently see wouldn’t be allowed,” said Hughes.

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