Junk Food Injunction - Latest Edition

August 2011

Message from the Editors

We would like to thank all of you who signed our petition urging the Advertising Standards Bureau to overturn their ruling that the McDonald's website, happymeal.com.au, is not marketing junk food to children - over five hundred signatures were collected! We'll update you on the response shortly. Well done Junkbusters!

Elizabeth and Wendy

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Cancer Council NSW
Ph: (02) 9334 1467

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Parents Beware...


Advertisers may have a new target audience…parents.

In a recent study from the University of Sydney, researchers found almost a quarter of TV food advertising targeted parents. This finding suggests advertisers may be changing their tactics. While we are all busy being concerned over the masses of junk food advertising targeting our children, we haven't noticed that we are being targeted ourselves.

The researchers also found that TV food advertisements which targeted parents were significantly more likely to make statements about health or nutritional benefits of the food for children. For example, describing a high sugar cereal as having '…the goodness of fibre…(while still treating)… them…(your children)…with the chocolaty taste they love.' It appears advertisers are turning unhealthy foods and drinks into products we believe to be nutritious and good for our children.

Themes of fun and happiness, fantasy and imagination were also found to be used, allowing advertisers to appeal to children and parents at the same time

Of concern, is that pledges by the food and advertising industries to curb junk food advertising only cover advertisements directly targeting children. Thus, food advertising that targets parents and children, side-steps this commitment.

It can be hard to find products that are healthy for children, and advertisers' claims about the nutritional benefits of their products only make it more confusing.

Publication details: Hebden L, King L, Kelly B. The art of persuasion: an analysis of techniques used to market foods to children. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health. 2011. Published online: 28 June 2011

Reclaiming public space

In Case You Missed It

July 2011: Inquiry into the Regulation of Billboard and Outdoor Advertising
The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs released a report highlighting the regulation of billboard and outdoor advertising, stating that "The Committee believes that the advertising industry has had many chances to prove that self-regulation works, and asserts that this is the last chance". Concerns specific to outdoor advertising were addressed, but other recommendations also called into question the approach to self-regulation more generally.

The following are some of the more significant recommendations:

June 2011: Industry Self-regulation of Advertising: Responsible or Responsive?

Seven fast food companies may have signed the voluntary Quick Service Restaurant Industry Initiative (QSRII) in 2009, but research from the University of Sydney and Cancer Council NSW shows that kids are still seeing fast food ads on television. From 2009 to 2010, the frequency of fast-food advertisements actually increased, and although unhealthy fast-foods compromised a lesser share of fast-food advertising in 2010, the frequency of ads when most children were watching television remained the same.

Publication details: King, L., Hebden, L., Grunseit, A., Kelly, B., Chapman, K., Venugopal, K. Industry self regulation of television food advertising: Responsible or responsive? International Journal of Pediatric Obesity, 2011.

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Obesity Coalition BlueprintMay 2011: Obesity Policy Coalition Releases Blueprint

In May, the Obesity Policy Coalition called for the State and Federal Governments to step in and regulate junk food marketing to children. They released an evidence based blueprint that explained how different types of advertising should be restricted and outlined definitions of key terms to be included in the plan. Senior Policy Advisor for OPC, Jane Martin said "the Federal Government had given industry a chance to clean up their act but self-regulation had proven to be a complete failure". The initiatives were endorsed by some 16 organisations including the Australian Medical Association, the Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance and the Coalition of Food Advertising to Children.
Key recommendations for restricting unhealthy food advertising to children address different forms of media including:

A Comprehensive Approach to Protecting Children from Unhealthy Food Advertising and Promotion

Global Headlines

Fast Food Chain in U.S. Eliminates Toys from Kids' Meals
Jack in the Box – the fifth largest hamburger chain in the U.S. – has announced it will no longer offer toys in kids' meals and also plans to include more nutritional meal options for children. Eliminating toys from kids' meals was widely praised by dietitians and health advocates, and it is hoped that other fast food restaurants follow suit. Some counties in the state of California have already banned the inclusion of toys in kids' meals deemed unhealthy and similar legislation is being considered in New York.
Fiji Targets Fat, Junk Food Ads
Fiji's health department wants consumers to think twice before buying junk food and is asking food producers to clearly label the trans-fat content on food packaging. Health Minister, Dr. Neil Sharma, is calling on manufacturers and importers to reduce salt and oil content in foods in an effort to reduce chronic 'lifestyle diseases'. Additionally, the Minister has proposed that an immediate ban be placed on junk food advertising in Fiji.
Irish Government Considers UK-Style Ban on Junk Food
Provisions recently introduced in the UK that restrict takeaway shops from opening within 400 metres of any school, have prompted the Irish Government to consider adopting similar measures. The Department of Health has also been working with the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland to ban the marketing of high-fat, high-sugar and high-sodium foods and beverages to children. Further provisions to curb the country's obesity epidemic are being explored, like revising the Food Pyramid and Healthy Eating Guidelines and introducing calorie posting on fast-food outlet menus.



Reports and Research

Food Commercials Increase Preference for Energy-Dense Foods, Particularly in Children Who Watch More Television

Reports and research
New research has revealed that children who see unhealthy food commercials on TV are more likely to have a preference for and eat junk food. The UK based study also revealed that children who watched television more than 21 hours per week were more likely to be affected by food commercials than children who watched television less often. A group of children ages six to thirteen were shown a popular cartoon show followed by five minutes of commercials. One set advertised toys, while the other set of ads promoted snacks and fast foods. After viewing the commercials, children were asked to choose foods they would like to eat from a list. Not surprisingly, children were more likely to pick unhealthy foods from the list after they had viewed the set of unhealthy food ads. Given the high frequency of food advertisements still being shown on television, this evidence is concerning, and also suggests that it may be beneficial to reduce the amount of time children spend watching television in general.

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Policy Statement: Children, Adolescents, Obesity and the Media

The American Academy of Pediatrics has released a Policy Statement regarding the contribution of the media toward child and adolescent obesity. It is suggested that the following are ways that watching TV could be a risk factor: (1) Increased sedentary activity and less physical activity; (2) unhealthy eating, influenced by television advertisements and programming; (3) increased snacking behaviour while watching television; (4) interference with normal sleep patterns (if television is viewed late at night). Some of the recommendations made to paediatricians include asking parents and patients two key questions about media use: How much time per day does the child or teenager spend with screen media and is there a TV set or unrestricted Internet connection throughout the house, including in the child's bedroom? Here are some of the other recommendations.

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A Junk Free Childhood: Responsible Standards for Marketing Foods and Beverages to Children- International Association for the Study of Obesity

Nesquick online game The issue of food marketing is also high on the agenda in Europe. The StanMark project was designed to develop a set of standards for marketing foods and beverages based on recommendations from the World Health Organization. This paper outlines those proposed standards and also highlights the problems associated with voluntary regulation. Various case studies are used to demonstrate the areas where self-regulation of food and beverage marketing is lacking, and seven proposed standards are ultimately offered as possible solutions to these issues.

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An Analysis of the Regulatory and Voluntary Landscape Concerning the Marketing and Promotion of Food and Drink to Children – National Heart Forum
The paper provides an overview and analysis of the current controls over food and beverage marketing to children in the UK. An investigation into the regulatory environment compared with the environment that children actually experience, shows that the current voluntary codes do not fully cover all areas of food marketing. Examples are given which demonstrate where the weaknesses lie, whether they are in definitions, exemptions or gaps in codes and regulations. Although the report does not attempt to set any guidelines or offer proposals, the information provides an in-depth look at junk food marketing in the UK and how it compares with Australia and other countries around the world.

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