A new Cancer Council NSW study has found no reduction in unhealthy food and drink advertisements on television during children’s peak viewing times.
This is in spite of the voluntary self-regulatory initiatives introduced by the food industry in 2009.
The study found that children are being exposed to an average of three unhealthy food advertisements every hour that they watch TV during peak periods –unchanged since 2011.
Cancer Council NSW’s study published in theJournal of Public Healthanalysed advertisements broadcast during peak children’s viewing times on the three major free-to-air commercial television channels in Sydney, over a four day period in 2015.
44 per cent of food advertisements were for unhealthy foods, with 1 in 5 (21 per cent) being for fast food. Besides fast food ads (1.3/hr), other frequently advertised categories were chocolate and confectionary (0.7/hr) and sugary drinks (0.4/hr).
“While this study looked at advertisements being shown in Sydney, we know that unhealthy food brands continue to advertise during peak children’s viewing times across Coffs Coast area,” Juanita Nantes, Nutrition Project Officer, said.
Reducing exposure of children to unhealthy food marketing is part of a comprehensive package of recommendations to address childhood obesity from the World Health Organization.
In 2009 The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) introduced two self-regulatory initiatives to reduce advertising and marketing to children for food and beverage products that are not healthier choices.
“This new study from Cancer Council NSW has shown that these industry initiatives have not helped to protect children from junk food marketing on TV and it is time government stepped in,” said Ms Nantes.
Ms Nantes said McDonald’s dominated the fast food category accounting for 47 percent of fast food advertisements, followed by KFC (26 per cent) and Hungry Jack’s (16 per cent).
“The fact that each of these fast food brands have actually been signed up to the voluntary self-regulatory initiatives since 2009 is cause for concern,” she said.
“Previous studies have highlighted loopholes within the food industry’s self-regulatory initiatives. The definitions of what constitutes ‘unhealthy food’ and when an ad is considered ‘advertising to children’ are not protecting children.
“If the objective of voluntary self-regulation initiatives is to reduce children’s exposure to advertisements that are not healthier choices then the definition of children’s viewing periods needs to incorporate times when high numbers of children are viewing, irrespective of the ratio to total audience numbers.
“Cancer Council NSW is calling on government to take long-awaited action to regulate to protect children from the impact and influence of junk food advertising.
“We want Coffs Coast children to be able to take a healthier path into adult life.”
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