04.Has industry self-regulation worked?
In the face of strong evidence that junk food ads are part of the obesity problem, the food industry has created voluntary codes to restrict the advertising of unhealthy foods “directed primarily at children”.
In 2008, the National Preventative Health Taskforce recommended legislation be introduced if voluntary self-regulation failed to phase out junk food marketing within four years.
In 2012, the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) claimed self-regulation had been a success, pointing to an independent review that found “the majority of signatory companies are going beyond the requirements of self-regulatory initiatives”.
However, an Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) report in 2012 noted that research done by the AFGC found there was no reduction in the rate of “non-core” food advertising by all AFGC companies, and said there was insufficient evidence to determine whether the codes had affected the rate of food and beverage advertising on commercial free-to-air TV.
The Obesity Policy Coalition believes the voluntary codes have had little impact because they define television “primarily directed at children” as P-, C- and G-rated shows that air in the morning or early evening, and rarely cover shows watched by kids during the family timeslots between 6pm and 9pm.
Independent surveys in Europe, Asia, Australia and North America have
also found that self-regulation codes by the food and beverage industry
have made little change in the past five years to the
amount of advertising seen by children.