Junk Food Injunction- Latest Edition
Message from the Editors
In this edition we have some updates on several of our campaigns. There has been some progress, thank you all for your continued support. We report on some interesting research on celebrity influence on children's brand preferences and some more news on the growth in online advertising.
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Cancer Council NSW
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In June 2012, Disney USA pledged to stop advertising junk food on children’s TV shows and kids’ channels. We thought that Australian children deserve the same and so did 815 others who signed our petition. We wrote to the three commercial television stations (Channel 9, Channel 10 and 7 Network) and four subscription networks that run children’s programs (Nickelodeon, Disney Channels, Cartoon Network/Boomerang, and Foxtel) asking them if they would also stop advertising junk food in children’s TV shows and on kids' channels.
Following our letter we met with The Walt Disney Company (Australia) and they told us in the last year the only ad they ran was for the ‘healthy’ McDonald’s Happy Meal. We received letters from Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network who both said they support the existing Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association and Australian Association of National Advertisers codes. Channel 10 recently replied saying that they support advertisers to comply with self-regulatory industry initiatives. Despite several follow up emails and phone calls to Foxtel, Channel 9 and the Seven Network we have received no acknowledgment of our correspondence. It seems it is not an area of priority for Australian networks.
What next? We will continue to advocate for networks to act responsibly and stop running food advertisements during children’s TV shows and on kids’ channels.
Meanwhile a report in the US has found that Nickelodeon does not have a clear policy for food marketing to children. The study found Nickelodeon alone aired over a quarter of the food ads viewed by 2- to 11-year-olds, and, just one program, Spongebob Squarepants, contributed 11% of all food ads viewed by children 2-8 years old.
Several groups in the US including the Centre for Science in the Public Interest have launched an email campaign attached to a wanted poster with a tagline “SpongeBob may be armed with nutritionally dangerous foods”.
In 2011, KFC Australia announced that it would remove toys from children's meals. In making the announcement KFC Corporate Affairs Manager Zac Rich said, "this is the next step in removing so-called pester power at our stores altogether. We hope this decision today will support parents in making dietary decisions on behalf of their children which aren't influenced in any way by pressure to choose the meal that has a toy."
Our petition asking other fast food companies to follow KFC’s lead and remove toys from all fast food children's meals was supported by 209 people; so we wrote to Hungry Jack’s, Red Rooster and McDonald’s. Recently, without any fanfare that we are aware of, Red Rooster stopped including toys with their kids' meals saying on their website “Red Rooster has listened to customer feedback and taken the decision to remove toys from our children’s meals….As a result of removing the toys, Red Rooster is also pleased to be able to pass on a 70c saving to our customers.”
Despite several attempts to get a response from Hungry Jack’s and McDonald’s we heard nothing. The lack of any public announcement that it was removing toys from kids' meals suggests toys with kids' meals are not considered a market differentiator for Red Rooster.
What next? We still believe toys should not be sold or advertised as part of a meal. Parents need to continue demanding that toys are separated from fast food meals, yet a loophole in the present self-regulations allows this practice to continue.
The Parents’ Jury research into canteen menus across Australia has found compliance to state-based canteen guidelines varies across the states. The nutrition guidelines categorise foods as green, part of a child’s every day diet; amber, foods which should not dominate the menu because they can be higher in energy, saturated fat, sugar and/or salt; and, red, considered to be ‘extra’ foods and should only be an occasional treat. Western Australia came out on top with 62% of menus complying. Green foods made up over half the menu in 93% of Western Australian schools. Across Australia 56% of surveyed menus still featured chocolate or confectionery which are considered red foods. The Parents’ Jury called on governments to support schools to meet the guidelines as school canteens play a role in modelling healthy eating choices.
Read about the study and how you can advocate for better food choices at school at the Parents’ Jury.
If you have been watching sport last summer you may have seen a few ads for alcohol and fast food in particular. Aaron Schultz, a Hobart father of two has started a petition because he has serious concerns about alcohol and junk food advertising in Australian sport. Check out his petition here.
A study in UK has found children consumed more of an endorsed brand of chips after viewing an advertisement featuring the celebrity associated with that brand even when shown footage of the celebrity in another context. Children 8-11 years increased their intake of a brand of endorsed chips after either watching a commercial for those chips or watching TV footage of the celebrity in a non-food context. The celebrity endorsement did not affect consumption of non-brand chips. These findings have implications for the usefulness of self-regulations which specify that celebrities must not be used in advertising to children, but can still feature in advertisements for unhealthy foods directed to a general audience.
Boyland EJ, Harrold JA, Dovey TM, Allison M, Dobson S, Jacobs MC et al. Food Choice and Overconsumption: Effect of a Premium Sports Celebrity Endorser. The Journal of Pediatrics . 13-3-2013
Games and activities on food company websites have the potential to engage children with the brand without children being aware it is advertising. A study in the US of 17 cereal manufacturers’ websites found techniques that capture and maintain children’s attention far longer than traditional methods of advertising such as television. Common techniques found included games featuring branding, known as advergames, videos, including television commercials or branded animated serials (webisodes), site registration and viral marketing techniques where children are encouraged to ‘tell a friend’.
In Australia, at present the Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative only covers third party websites. However, the Australian Food and Grocery Council has reported it will extend both food industry self-regulations to include marketing and advertising communications appearing on all internet sites (including company owned and brand websites) and where the medium attracts an audience of greater than 35% of children. Recent complaints have been rejected because the Advertising Standards Board (ASB) considers a website not primarily directed to children as “young children may enjoy some of the components of the site but would likely be assisted in reaching the site and, would be under adult supervision” or because the product which is the focus of the website and game on the website is not primarily a product aimed at children. For example in relation to a donut game on the Donut King website the ASB said “donuts themselves are not targeted to and of principal appeal to children”.
Cheyne AD, Dorfman L, Bukofzer E, Harris JL. Marketing Sugary Cereals to Children in the Digital Age: A Content Analysis of 17 Child-Targeted Websites. Journal of Health Communication 2013;1-20
Recently, the UK Children’s Food campaign has released a report on their experiences navigating the complaints process regarding marketing techniques used by websites targeting children and selling unhealthy products. They submitted 27 detailed complaints against 19 websites to the Advertising Standards Authority. The report describes their experience ‘down the rabbit-hole’ of the frustrating complaint process.
Two thirds of the complaints were rejected outright and out of the others considered, two were partially upheld and another two were resolved informally. The report highlighted products that cannot be advertised on UK children’s television but children have unlimited access to the same product advertising online.
Just one day before regulation to limit the size of sugary drinks in New York was to come into effect a judge has ruled it invalid. The planned regulation, aimed to reduce consumption of sugary drinks, limited the size of drinks sold in restaurants and theatres to no more than 475ml. The Mayor described the development as a “temporary setback” and encouraged restaurants to voluntarily adopt the 475 ml limit.
The same month, Mississippi brought in a new law that allows only the state legislature and not counties, districts and towns the authority to regulate the sale and marketing of food on a statewide basis. The Governor said "It simply is not the role of the government to micro-regulate citizens' dietary decisions".
In Australia, Cancer Council, Diabetes Australia and the National Heart Foundation have launched the Rethink Sugary Drink campaign. The campaign highlights the amount of sugar in sweetened beverages such as soft drink, energy drinks and sports drinks, and aims to encourage Australians to rethink their sugary drink consumption and switch to water, reduced-fat milk or unsweetened options. The consumption of sugar sweetened beverages (e.g soft drink, sports drinks) is associated with increased energy intake and in turn, weight gain and obesity. Obesity is a leading risk factor for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.
Recent reports suggest that sales of fast food such as pizza, hamburgers and hotdogs increased in France so that they now make up over half the expenditure at restaurants. The market share has increased by 74% since 2004. One reason put forward for the increase is the increased demand for delivery services as more people eat in the workplace.