Junk Food Injunction- Latest Edition
Message from the Editors
In this edition we share some insights from the recent World Cancer Congress. The parents have voted and we highlight the winners of the Parents' Jury Fame and Shame Awards for advertising unhealthy food and drinks to children. We look at studies into the extent of marketing in magazines and through Facebook, report on some studies about fast food in disadvantaged communities and provide an update on the sugary drinks campaign in the US.
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We have just come back from the World Cancer Congress and want to share some insights from the presenters. With about a third of the most common cancers preventable through diet, maintaining a healthy weight and taking regular physical activity, there was much discussion on reducing the global cancer burden through policy action. Countries are encouraged to set national targets in line with the 9 voluntary global targets for non-communicable diseases in the World Health Organization's Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2013-2020
Another highlight was a presentation from Dr Corinna Hawkes from World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) International who spoke about maximising the impact of obesity prevention initiatives on populations. Her recommendations included the need for comprehensive obesity prevention policy that includes a package of initiatives that reinforce impact. Dr Hawkes stressed that there was not one single policy initiative that would have the greatest impact, and presented the WCRF NOURISHING framework that provides a comprehensive guide bringing together the evidence and examples from around the world to help policy makers tailor approaches in their country. The policy areas include Nutrition label standards and regulations on the use of claims and implied claims on foods, Restrict food advertising and other forms of commercial promotion, Improve nutritional quality of the whole food supply, Inform people about food and nutrition through public awareness and Give nutrition education and skills.
Initiatives that reduce the power and influence of food marketing on children are one of the priority policy areas featured in the NOURISHING framework. Dr Hawkes also stressed that based on the growing evidence around healthy diet in utero and early life stages and cancer prevention, initiatives that focus on children, creating an environment that supports parents and children to develop healthy habits, should be the focus.
Stephen Lewis, from AIDS-Free World, who has received worldwide recognition for his advocacy for more effective global responses to HIV and AIDS encouraged the cancer community to have a more aggressive voice in civil society, learning from other NGO campaigns in communicable disease and hunger. Colleen Doyle, from the American Cancer Society, reiterated the importance of advocacy, combined with social marketing campaigns so that communities can work together to make it easier for people to make healthy choices. She encouraged us to consider local initiatives as well as national policies.
Digital apps, sports drink branded sporting equipment and competitions from the big names like Fanta, McDonald, Powerade and Wonka were announced as winners of The Parents' Jury Fame and Shame Awards for 2014. The awards highlight the best and worst of food marketing to kids over the last year.
The inaugural Foul Play Award went to Coca Cola's Powerade Sports Loyalty Program where sports clubs are encouraged to stock sugary drinks in their sports canteen to qualify for sports equipment. Clubs need to drink over 380 bottles of Powerade sports drink – that's 13kg of sugar – just to earn enough points to get a basketball.
Coco Cola also had the Digital Ninja Award covered with its Fanta Flavour Lab app that engages teens in fun games and encourages them to share with their Facebook friends. McDonald's was a joint winner of this award for their Happy Meal branded app, Emlings, that is aimed at 4-8 year olds.
The Nestle Wonka Chocolate Golden Ticket promotion won the Pester Power Award for getting kids to pester in order to win a golden ticket to visit the Nestle factory in Melbourne.
The awards also highlight a promotion for healthy eating, the Parents' Choice Award. This year it was awarded to Woolworths for the Jamie's Garden Collectibles promotion. Parents felt the promotion taught children about eating fresh healthy food in a fun and engaging way.
More details on the winners can be found by visiting the Parents' Jury website.
More traditional marketing techniques are still around, although they may be more subtle than they used to be. An analysis of food and beverage ads in NZ magazines, both targeted to children and adolescents and popular with these age groups, found that targeted magazines had a higher proportion of unhealthy branded ads than popular magazines. Branded editorial content was most common (39%), followed by direct advertising (27%) and then competitions and promotions (14%). Snack items such as chocolates and ice-creams were the most common foods advertised. Currently in New Zealand, advertising is self-regulated but these regulations fail to prevent this type of advertising either because it is an advertorial or it is in magazines popular with children and adolescents but aimed at a general audience.
No E, Kelly B, Devi A, Swinburn B, Vandevijvere S. Food references and marketing in popular magazines for children and adolescents in New Zealand: a content analysis. Appetite 2014
As Australians enthusiastically take to Facebook, food marketers aren't far behind. Marketing messages on Facebook spread across friends' networks when users engage with posts by liking or posting content themselves. Food brands encourage sharing by asking questions such as "who would you like to share a pack of Maltesers with?". Unique to social media is user generated content where people post about the product or brand to their own social media network. For example, they may post pictures of themselves with the product and tag the brand page so that their friends see the post about that brand without visiting the brand Facebook page. A study of 27 of the most popular food and drink Facebook pages in Australia found that pages commonly used celebrities, licenced characters popular with children and sportspeople to promote their product. Competitions, giveaways and prizes were frequent and many were exclusively available to Facebook followers. Nine pages featured games and twenty-four linked to apps. The authors conclude that the narrow focus on restricting ads during children's television is likely to miss much advertising which is moving online.
A majority of Facebook pages highlighted the brand's philanthropy or social responsibility. This is interesting given an experimental study found that this type of activity may contribute to a 'health halo' for a company's product. They investigated people's attitude to products produced by a fictional company that participated in initiatives such as donating to charity. They found that people ate more of a company's snack when they had read about the corporate social responsibility (CSR) of that company. Those people also underestimated the amount of calories in the snack by more than those who hadn't heard about the CSR.
Freeman B, Kelly B, Baur L, Chapman K, Chapman S, Gill T, et al. Digital Junk: Food and Beverage Marketing on Facebook. American Journal of Public Health 2014 Oct 16;e1-e9
Peloza J, Ye C, Montford WJ, 2014. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, When companies do good, are their products good for you? How corporate social responsibility creates a health halo. In Press
A study of over 10,000 people in the UK found twice as many fast food outlets close to non-white and socially deprived areas; the same neighbourhoods where obesity and diabetes rates were highest. These results highlight the influence of the local environment and planning laws on our food choices and support calls for public health impacts to be prioritised when considering applications for fast food restaurants to move into a neighbourhood.
And in the US, fast food restaurants in black neighbourhoods have more displays of kids' meal toys than those in other neighbourhoods. Researchers identified fast food restaurants that had advertising to children such as displays of kids' meal toys either inside or outside the store. Indoor ads or displays for kids' meal toys was by far the most common advertising followed by exterior ads with cartoon characters and exterior ads for kids' meal toys. Almost one third of fast food chains had child-directed marketing. They found that the number of fast food chain restaurants with child directed marketing decreased in 2011 compared to 2010 but in 2012 the prevalence was back close to 2010 levels, although the prevalence of displays of kids' meal toys stayed steady. In Australia, toys in kids' meals are not considered as advertising under the advertising to children's initiative and both McDonald's and Hungry Jack's still include toys with their kids' meals despite saying they do not advertise to children.
Bodicoat DH, Carter P, Comber A, Edwardson C, Gray LJ, Hill S, et al. Is the number of fast-food outlets in the neighbourhood related to screen-detected type 2 diabetes mellitus and associated risk factors? Public Health Nutrition 2014 Oct 31;1-8.
Ohri-Vachaspati P, Isgor Z, Rimkus L, Powell LM, Barker DC, Chaloupka FJ. Child-Directed Marketing Inside and on the Exterior of Fast Food Restaurants. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2014 Oct 29;Online
Three years on from their 2010 Sugary Drinks FACTS report, the Rudd Centre for Food Policy and Obesity have revisited the nutritional content of sugary drinks and the marketing practices of the beverage companies in the US.
- A decline in regular soft drink sales but an increase in flavoured water, sports drinks, ready-to-drink tea and coffee and energy drinks. There are fewer ads for sugary drinks although even pre-schoolers are still seeing ads.
- Advertising of energy drinks is on the rise.
- There is covert advertising as product placement in shows such as American Idol, America's Got Talent and The X Factor.
- Social media grew exponentially, and is spreading into newer platforms such as Instagram and Vine.
- Multicultural youth are targeted through sponsorship of events and language-specific TV.
Strengthening the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, improved labelling and enforcing children's privacy protections under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act are among the recommendations from the report.
Harris J L, Schwartz, MB, LoDolce, M et al, Sugary Drink FACTS 2014, Some progress but much room for improvement in marketing to youth. Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, November, 2014.
We know that when we eat in front of the television we're not as good at moderating what we eat. Now it seems the actual show may have an influence too. A small study in the US has shown that people watching more distracting TV shows snack more. A group of university students who watched an action movie ate almost 100% more grams of food than a group that watched an interview show. Even those watching the action movie with the sound turned off ate over a third more than those watching the interview show.
Tal A, Zuckerman S, Wansink B. Watch what you eat: Action-related television content increases food intake. JAMA Internal Medicine 2014