Junk Food Injunction - Latest Edition
Message from the Editors
We wish you a Happy New Year and look forward to keeping you updated with what's happening in food marketing to children in 2012. In this newsletter we look at a new study about the nutrition quality of children's fast food meals as well as talk about some changes in the fast food industry. A new website has launched to show how much advertising is in your kids favourite TV shows and we look at a study that has explored using toys to sell healthy options and another study where mums talk about how they cope with pester power.
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Cancer Council NSW
Ph: (02) 9334 1467
A recent CCNSW study published in Appetite has found that overall children's fast food meals are high in saturated fat, sugar and sodium. There were a total of 199 different children's meals available from fast food outlets Chicken Treat, Hungry Jacks, KFC, McDonalds, Oporto and Red Rooster. Seventy-two percent of the meals exceeded 30% of the daily energy recommendations for 4 year old children, and 90% of meals exceeded 30% of the upper limit for sodium for children aged 4-8.
Some meals also exceeded the daily upper limit for sodium for 4 year olds (6 meals) and 8 year olds (3 meals). Two meals exceeded the daily saturated fat recommendations for both 4 and 8 year olds.
The study also looked at the nutrition criteria used by the Quick Service Industry to define healthier choices for foods that can be advertised to children. The criteria allow nutrients at levels that exceed 30% of the estimated recommendations for saturated fat, sugar and the upper limit for sodium for all age groups. Thirty percent is considered how much of the day's food intake a child should get from a single meal. As well, the criteria for energy allows meals to provide as much as 35% of the estimated recommended daily energy intake for four year old children.
Study: Wellard L, Glasson C, et al. Fries or a fruit bag? Investigating the nutritional composition of fast food children's meals. Appetite 2012;58:105-10
Did you know that a child who watches two hours of television a day will see about 2200 junk food advertisements in a year? That’s the equivalent of spending three entire school days watching junk food ads!
In a perfect world, kids wouldn’t be bombarded by junk food ads. A trip to the supermarket wouldn’t be a battle between parents and kids who want the latest snack or the free toy that was advertised during their favourite show. But it’s not a perfect world, and children are exposed to hundreds of ads for junk food everyday, from greasy fast food to sugary snack bars.
Cancer Council NSW has just launched Fat Free TV, the latest campaign to advocate for government regulation of junk food marketing.
The Fat Free TV Guide assists parents to reduce their child’s exposure to junk food ads by identifying which programs contain the highest number of junk food ads. The Fat Free TV Guide has classified over 100 popular TV shows according to the food ads they contain. Pick a program and you’ll not only find out how many junk food ads are in popular TV shows, you’ll also see how much energy, saturated fat, sugar and sodium your kids would be getting if they ate one serve of everything they saw advertised in an average episode.
Fat Free TV also provides an opportunity for the public to send messages to the TV networks, demanding Fat Free TV. There are parent resources on physical activity and sedentary behaviour, tips for reducing screen time, improving children’s media literacy and reducing the impact and occurrence of pester power. This gives parents the tools they need to reduce the unhealthy influence of junk food advertising.
Would you like to get involved in the Fat Free TV campaign? You can assist us by:
- Posting a message of support or recording a video explaining why you’d like to see Fat Free TV
- Sharing Fat Free TV through email, Facebook or Twitter #fatfreetv
- Signing up to the junk food marketing newsletter
- Encouraging your local school to place Fat Free TV snippets in their newsletters – snippets are available by request
If you would like more information on the Fat free TV campaign or to access any of the supporting materials for your networks, please contact the Fat Free TV Team on Ph: (02) 9334 1771 or email email@example.com
Mandatory menu labelling came into effect in NSW on 1st February 2012, with ACT and other states in various stages of planning similar legislation.
Late in 2011, Hungry Jacks introduced vegie sticks as "a great alternative to fries" on their menu. However, their Smart Pick Kid's meal still includes a packet of lollies - hardly an everyday lunch choice.
Meanwhile, KFC has set a precedence for fast food companies in Australia by no longer including toys in kids meals. Junkbusters challenged the other fast food chains to follow KFC's lead.
We have found that the inclusion of toys in kid's meals is one of the main concerns parents have about food marketing so we are calling on Red Rooster, Hungry Jack's and McDonald's to stop including toys in their kids meals. Sign up to the petition to join with others in getting this message to the fast food companies.
In September, The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) found Channel 7 in five capital cities breached the Children's Television Standards when the network played a 'station identifier' during children's programming periods. The identifier featured an 'adult sized' McDonald's playground including McDonald's characters.
ACMA determined that it was an advertisement for McDonald's and as such should not be broadcast during a P viewing period. As well, the ACMA ruled that it breached the CTS by being broadcast during C periods as the ad was not clearly distinguishable as an ad to child viewers and it also included proprietary characters which should not be used to advertise during C periods.
The ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman said. "The ACMA remains serious about the protection of children during children's programming, particularly given their vulnerability to forms of advertising that are not well signposted or have the potential to be unduly influential."
Channel Seven Brisbane was found to breach the CTS in 2010. Under the remedial action the five Seven Network licensees are required to implement a process for reviewing all non-program material that will be broadcast during P programming periods.
Interviews with mums of preschoolers in the US has come up with 10 tips for dealing with pester power or the nag factor as the study called it. Most mothers likened battling pester power with fighting a battle. The three main reasons why children nagged were eye catching packaging, well known characters and commercials which were reported as exposing children to new products and encouraging requests for advertised items.
Strategies mums (only mums were interviewed) mentioned when dealing with pester power were:
- Giving in. Although thought of as an ineffective strategy, it was still one of the most commonly mentioned.
- Yelling. An immediate reaction most commonly mentioned by mothers with more than one child.
- Distracting. This included either taking something along on the shopping trip or asking the children to do tasks while shopping.
- Staying calm and consistent.
- Avoiding the environment. Although this was mentioned as a potential strategy it was not commonly used as it is not practical to plan to leave the children at home.
- Limiting exposure to ads. As advertising was seen as something that influenced children’s nagging, limiting exposure to advertising was seen as a strategy.
- Negotiating and setting the rules. Rules included allowing the child to pick one treat or a ‘no whining’ rule.
- Allowing alternatives. Mothers talked about children being encouraged to request and receive a healthy alternative of their choice.
- Explaining the reasoning behind choices. This was described as a way to teach children not only in the store but when watching advertising.
Study: Henry H, Borzekowski D. The Nag Factor. Journal of Children and Media 2011;5:298-317
A study in the US with preschool children found that by using a toy which was part of a collectible set children were influenced to choose a healthy meal.
The study looked at meals with toys as a one off stand alone as well as toys that children knew were part of a set as well as meals without toys. A collectible toy was defined as a toy that had already been established with the children as one part of a set of toys. When a collectible toy was included with a healthy food option children said they liked that food just as much as the typical fast food option offered without a toy. As expected, when both meals were presented without a toy the unhealthy option rated much higher than the healthy option for both likeability and taste ratings. When a toy that was not part of a collectible toy set was included the effect was not as strong and similar to presenting a collectible toy that the child already owned.
Ninety two percent of the parents surveyed were against the inclusion of toys with unhealthy meals but 73 percent said they were in favour of toys included with healthy options.
Study: McAlister AR, Cornwell TB. Collectible Toys as marketing Tools: Understanding Preschool Children’s Responses to Foods Paired with Premiums. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing 2011
The South Australian Government recently released research showing that despite the introduction of voluntary self-regulation there has been no change in junk food advertising on free-to-air and pay TV. The study looked at advertisements on free-to-air and pay TV at several time periods between October 2008 and July 2010.
Some of the findings included:
- Children's exposure to advertising for non-core food (e.g. fast food, soft drink and confectionery) has remained relatively stable,
- Most exposure to advertising is occurring when the voluntary codes may not apply as many children are watching programs that are not targeted directly at them e.g. reality TV, sitcoms, sport.
- The most commonly advertised foods were fast foods (57% of all non-core food advertising) and sugar-sweetened drinks (10% of all non-core food advertising),
- Non-core foods made up 100% of food advertising on the Pay TV channel Cartoon Network
- Non-core food advertising was more common during programs popular with children compared to programs popular with adults.
- Although signatories to the Australian Food and Grocery Council Responsible Children's Marketing Initiative represent 40% of food advertising (excluding fast food which is covered in a separate code) they are responsible for a much higher proportion and number of advertisements for non-core foods than non-signatories (78% vs 24% in July 2010)
- There has been a consistent rise in the rate of fast food advertising in that time period regardless of whether companies were signatories to the Quick Service Restaurant Industry Initiative for the Responsible Advertising and Marketing to Children
The Australian Greens Leader Bob Brown introduced The Protecting Children from Junk Food Advertising (Broadcasting and Telecommunications Amendment) Bill 2011 into the Senate on November 21st saying "The problem is not going away. It is getting worse. Self-regulation has clearly failed and the Australian parliament has a duty to act." The Bill covers free-to-air and pay TV as well as the use of SMS and email to promote junk food to children and is likely to be debated in 2012.