Junk Food Injunction

July 2012

Message from the Editors

It's already July and the Olympics are fast approaching. With Cadbury, McDonald's and Coca-Cola sponsoring the 2012 Olympic Games, this edition of Junk Food Injunction will focus on sport and food advertising. We talk about the recent Disney announcement committing to reducing junk food marketing to children and the new developments in Australia which provide an opportunity to reduce children's exposure to junk food marketing. Also, the World Health Organization has recently released a framework for implementing the 2010 recommendations and we take a look at how advertising can be used for promoting healthy foods.


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Disney sets new standards


The Walt Disney Company recently announced that from 2015 only food and beverages that meet Disney's nutrition guidelines will be able to be advertised on Disney Channel, Disney XD, Disney Junior, Radio Disney and Disney-owned online destinations aimed at families with young children. The nutrition guidelines have limits on energy, saturated fat, sodium and sugar. The criteria are not easy to use as both the sugar and saturated fat limits are expressed per 100 calories not as per serve or per 100g that shoppers are familiar with from the nutrition information panel. There is a requirement in the meal and dish categories for the inclusion of either fruit, vegetables, whole grain, low fat dairy or lean protein. Although the criteria may not be ideal this commitment by Disney is recognition that food marketing influences children and they should not be targeted with advertising.

Disney also introduced the "Mickey Check" Tool, an icon which will appear on foods meeting the criteria by the end of 2012. The icon will appear on licensed foods, recipes on Disney.com and on menus and products at Disney's parks and resorts.

Sport and food advertising to children

SportCurrently in Australia, there are no regulations designed to limit children's exposure to unhealthy food and drink marketing through community or professional sport sponsorship. While sponsorship may be an important source of funding for sport, sponsorship by manufacturers of unhealthy food and drinks can undermine the health promoting goals of sport. The promotion of food and drinks that are high in fat, sugar and/or salt may undo some of the health benefits gained by children participating in sport and help to establish and reinforce unhealthy eating habits which last throughout life.

Cancer Council NSW and the Prevention Research Collaboration, University of Sydney conducted a body of research to determine the scope of unhealthy food and drink sponsorship of children's sport, the effect of this sponsorship on children, and potential solutions to create healthier sponsorship arrangements. One study looked at the most popular sports for children in NSW and found half of food and drink sponsors were promoting unhealthy food, selling mostly high fat, sugar and/or salt food, and clubs with mostly younger players (5 to 14 years) had the most unhealthy food and drink sponsors compared to clubs with older players.

There are a number of ways that food and drink sponsorship can promote brands or products. Fifty three percent of food and drink sponsors had their logo on players' uniforms, while 29% gave out vouchers for players to buy their products. However, only 41% of these food and drink sponsors gave any direct funding to clubs, with many providing only in-kind support, such as the use of a fast food restaurant for a registration night. For those clubs who did receive any type of sponsorship (funding or in-kind), most reported that less than a quarter of their overall income came from this sponsorship.

Interviews with parents showed most parents (86%) thought that elite sport sponsorship affected the products that children liked, asked for and bought while 48% also thought that sponsors of children's own local clubs had this effect on children. Most children thought that the food and drink companies sponsoring their club and favourite team were 'cool' (69%), and liked to return the favour to these sponsors by buying their products (59%). Most children had been given a voucher (86%) or certificate (76%) from a food or drink company to reward their sport performance. Around one-third of children said that they liked the company more after getting these rewards.

The recommendations in the report include firstly limiting unhealthy sponsorship of children's own sports clubs followed by restrictions at other levels of sport and the establishment of an independent centralised fund of sponsorship.

Building solutions to protect children from unhealthy food and drink sport sponsorship report.

Food marketing to children on the agenda in Australia

In May, around 60 representatives from government, industry and non-government public health and consumer bodies attended a seminar jointly hosted by the Minister for Health & Ageing in South Australia, the Hon John Hill and the Australian National Preventive Health Agency.

International guest speaker Dr Corinna Hawkes provided insights into the strengths and weaknesses of the approaches used in various countries and suggested some key learnings that might be relevant to Australia, including the need for clear definitions for the foods to which marketing restrictions apply, the age of children and 'marketing to children'. Dr Hawkes recommended focussing on reducing children's exposure to food marketing whether this is through government regulation, industry initiatives or a combination of both.

A smaller group of stakeholders was invited to a meeting to consider in more detail the discussion paper prepared in advance of the seminar Australian children's exposure to the advertising and marketing of energy-dense nutrient-poor foods and beverages: strengthening current arrangements.

Since then, a working group of industry, government and public health stakeholders has been convened to discuss the effectiveness of the industry initiatives to identify the opportunities for improvement. The South Australian Health Minister is due to report to the Standing Council on Health in October 2012. This process provides an opportunity to highlight the limitations of the existing industry codes and advocate for tighter restrictions. Stay tuned to Junkbusters for more information on opportunities to have your say.

World Health Organization framework

WHOIn May 2010, the World Health Assembly, through resolution WHA63.14, endorsed a set of recommendations on the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children. A new document, 'A framework for implementing the set of recommendations on the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children' was developed by the World Health Organization in response to this resolution to guide policy makers to apply the recommendations in their country.

The framework covers the definition of marketing to children and in particular the need to consider both exposure and power in policy development. The document covers the steps involved in policy development and implementation; and the monitoring, evaluation and research processes. Examples from around the world are used to illustrate each section.

In the News

Parents force withdrawal of McDonald's brochure

The Herald Sun recently reported that parents at a junior basketball tournament in Ballarat were concerned that maps showing the venues for games also included the nearest four McDonald's stores as well as an image of a 2540kJ burger, fries and Coca Cola meal. McDonald's said the advertisement was not approved according to their Responsible Marketing to Children Policy and would no longer be used. Has your child received a certificate or reward card that you would consider is not responsible marketing to children? If so we'd love to hear about it. Tell us at junkbusters@nswcc.org.au.

Elite athletes and their perceptions of role modelling

EliteA recent study, by University of Sydney, of almost 2000 elite athletes representing 22 different sports across Australia found that more female athletes than male athletes were opposed to unhealthy food and alcohol advertising in sport (55% vs 38%) and unhealthy food and alcohol advertising by elite athletes (85% vs 66%). Overall 54% said that junk food or alcohol advertising in sport was acceptable which the authors surmise may be due to a perceived need for food and alcohol sponsorship for sporting bodies. Those under 18 were much less likely to find advertising in sport acceptable. The study concluded that most support a role for athletes in promoting physical activity and obesity prevention.

Grunseit et al Health Promotion Journal of Australia 2012 23:63-9 Australian athletes health behaviours and perceptions of role modelling and marketing of unhealthy products.

Menus with exercise equivalents may be more effective than kilojoule labelling

A study into different ways of presenting caloric information in a low-income neighbourhood in Baltimore, USA found that sales of soft drinks fell the most when the signs at the store talked about how much exercise it took to work off a bottle of soft drink. ┬áThe most effective sign read “did you know that working off a bottle of soda or fruit juice takes about 50 minutes of running?”

Bleich SN et al Reduction in purchases of sugar-sweetened beverages among low-income black adolescents after exposure to caloric information, American Journal of Public Health Feb 2012.

Marketing Carrots - the new fast food

CarrotsFormer Coca Cola marketing executive Todd Putman has been reported in The Washington Post giving advice on marketing practices. He said that too often healthy campaigns are boring or too preachy while successful campaigns need to appeal to consumer’s emotions. To illustrate his point Putman referred to a baby carrot campaign he has consulted on. In one of the ads a woman shoots carrots out of a gun at a man flying off a cliff in a rocket powered shopping cart. The ‘baby carrots eat’em like junk food’ campaign also includes ‘chip packet’ like packaging and a website (www.babycarrots.com).