Junk Food Injunction- Latest Edition

August 2016

Sports Sponsorship In this edition we share the latest CCNSW research on junior sports development programs, the junior versions of adult sports that aim to encourage children to participate in sport. We found that there aren't too many food companies sponsoring these programs but unfortunately those that do are junk food companies.

A recent Australian paper has found strong evidence of a relationship between food marketing and negative effects on food preferences, choices and short-term consumption in 3-12 year old children. We also look at more evidence of the influence of brands on children, highlighting some novel Australian research; some recent qualitative research on the effects of pester power; and a comparison of the density of fast food outlets in different SES areas in Adelaide.

Enjoy reading,


To be added to the distribution list for Junk Food Injunction please contact:

Cancer Council NSW
Ph: (02) 9334 1467

Read past issues of Junk Food Injunction


Junk food companies still sponsoring children's sport

Junior sports development programs are mini versions of adult sports, aimed at getting kids into a particular sport. We found food and beverage companies sponsoring eight junior development programs with athletics and surf lifesaving having the most sponsors. Our study found that of the food and beverage companies that sponsor these programs most were junk food companies, peddling lollies, fast food and sugary drinks. Fortunately these were in the minority, showing that sport sponsorship doesn't have to contradict healthy lifestyle messages. Non-food sponsors included banks and airlines. We want sponsorship of children's sport programs included in food marketing regulation to reduce the impact unhealthy food marketing has on children. In the absence of regulation, we are asking these companies to exercise responsible marketing practices and withdraw from sports sponsorship. Get involved in our campaign to beat junk food marketing.

Watson WL, Brunner R, Wellard L, Hughes C. Sponsorship of junior sport development programs in Australia. Aust N Z J Public Health 2016

Food marketing evidence is compelling but global action is lacking

"It is time to shift the locus of responsibility for childhood obesity away from the individual and toward those that control the food system and resultant obesogenic environment." That is the conclusion of a recent examination of current evidence of the relationship between food marketing and children's food behaviours. The study found the evidence base was particularly strong for 3-12 year olds, with exposure to marketing showing negative effects on food preferences, choices and short-term food consumption.

Globally, progress on restricting the marketing of high fat, high sugar and high salt food and beverage products to children has been limited. In May 2010, member states of the World Health Organization endorsed a resolution to restrict the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children and adolescents. Kraak and fellow authors looked at actions by member states since then and found no member state has implemented comprehensive or mandatory regulations.

Norman J, Kelly B, Boyland E, McMahon AT. The Impact of Marketing and Advertising on Food Behaviours: Evaluating the Evidence for a Causal Relationship. Current Nutrition Reports 2016;1-11

Kraak VI, Vandevijvere S, Sacks G, Brinsden H, Hawkes C, Barquera S, et al. Progress achieved in restricting the marketing of high-fat, sugary and salty food and beverage products to children. Bull World Health Organ 2016 Jul 1; 94(7):540-8

Unhealthy brands are cool, fun and exciting

We know children are exposed to lots of ads for unhealthy foods and their brands, but what effect does that have on them? An Australian study of over 400 10-16 year olds looked at children's perceptions of food brands, their perceptions of those who use those brands and in a novel approach asked about the brand's personalities using 'brand-as-a-person' metaphors. The eleven unhealthy brands were rated more favourably than the three healthier brands, with the unhealthy brands being described as more cool, fun and exciting. Cadbury scored the highest. Cadbury advertises on TV using animated characters and family images. Children rated users of unhealthy food brands as less sporty but more popular than users of healthy brands. Interestingly, young children rated users of KFC as more sporty which can probably be explained by the KFC sponsorship of elite cricket. Children who had engaged with food brands on Facebook reported they would make friends with the brand if it was a person. The authors conclude that restrictions on marketing to children has to have broad definitions to include ads that are going to be seen by children even if the food or the ad is not primarily targeted to children.

A US study found that The Coca Cola Company, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, PepsiCo and Starbucks were responsible for half the food and beverage brand appearances viewed by children and adolescents on prime-time US TV. Brand appearances were also primarily concentrated in reality shows. Although children are exposed to more ads per week, they saw more brand appearances than traditional ads for these particular brands. Such appearances in reality shows fall outside the advertising to children criteria for child-directed media but the authors warn they may be more effective than traditional ads. These brand appearances cannot be skipped as they are part of the content and also because the brand appearances are not in the traditional form of an ad, young people may not be able to detect it as advertising.

Kelly B, Freeman B, King L, Chapman K, Baur LA, Gill T. The normative power of food promotions: Australian children's attachments to unhealthy food brands. Public Health Nutrition 2016; FirstView:1-9

Elsey JW, Harris JL. Trends in food and beverage television brand appearances viewed by children and adolescents from 2009 to 2014 in the USA. Public Health Nutrition 2016; 19(11):1928-33

Pester power prevails

It's tough for parents to avoid caving in to pestering when shopping with the kids. A very large study in eight European countries talked to thousands of parents and children about pestering. Most commonly, parents reported that children 'sometimes' asked for items they had seen on TV. The percentage of parents who said kids 'often' asked for items was only 3% in Sweden compared to 26% in Italy. Children who asked for items on TV were more likely to be overweight and their diets were higher in both fat and sugar. Interestingly, Sweden has strict regulations on ads in children's TV programs and this could explain the lower proportion of children asking for items they see on TV.

Another study that talked to 8-12 year olds in the UK also found they were influenced by ads to pester, with most children saying they asked their parents for things they had seen on TV. One girl told the researchers "I asked mum if I could have it and she said no and I was annoyed and I kept trying and she finally said yes and I got to go to the shops and get it". Dr Jyotsna Vohra, head of Policy Research Centre for Cancer Prevention at Cancer Research UK, reported "most kids said that adverts made them feel hungry and in many cases it had a direct effect, with some children more likely to 'plead', 'nag' or 'beg' their parents after seeing an advert." Cancer Research UK is calling for regulations to stop junk food advertising on TV before 9pm.

Huang CY, Reisch LA, Gwozdz W, Molnár D, Konstabel K, Michels N, et al. Pester power and its consequences: do European children's food purchasing requests relate to diet and weight outcomes? Public Health Nutrition 2016; FirstView:1-1

Cancer Research UK, Junk food advertising is too tempting for children, 5 July 2016

Fast food companies set up shop near disadvantaged schools

Around Australia, local communities are campaigning against fast food outlets being located close to schools. A recent study in Adelaide found disproportionally more fast food outlets within 1000 metres of schools in disadvantaged areas compared to advantaged areas. Schools in disadvantaged areas were almost ten times more likely to have a fast food outlet within 1500 metres. These results are similar to others around the world and reinforce calls for including healthy food environments as a component of planning policies. As well, it is likely that the increase in fast food outlets may indicate decreased accessibility to healthy food options.

Coffee NT, Kennedy HP, Niyonsenga T. Fast-food exposure around schools in urban Adelaide. Public Health Nutrition 2016; FirstView:1-11