Junk Food Injunction- Latest Edition

September 2013

Message from the Editors

Welcome to our Spring edition of Junk Food Injunction. You may have heard about breaches to the Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative by Kellogg’s, but did you hear what excuses the company used to defend their advertising or the reasoning behind the Advertising Standard’s Board ruling? There are some interesting grass roots petitions involving McDonald’s happening at the moment and of course there are always new and interesting studies to talk about.


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Kellogg's caught out three times for breaching their advertising to children promise

Fat free tv update

Showing a piece of fruit on a bench does not necessarily encourage good dietary habits and depicting an imaginary pool scene does not encourage physical activity according to a recent decision by the Advertising Standards Board (ASB) that found the Kellogg’s Coco Pops ad in breach of the Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative (RCMI). The ad showed animated Coco Pops swimming in a bowl of milk playing the game ‘Marco Polo’. The cereal was being eaten by a young boy. Kellogg’s defended the advertisement saying it used imagery “to prompt nostalgic recollections of main grocery buyers regarding the fun times they may have experienced during their childhood” and, in relation to physical activity, the game “indirectly promotes swimming and pool games as being fun and highly enjoyable activities”. However the ASB thought that this was a bit of a stretch and ruled that the ad was in fact directed primarily to children and did not include messaging that encouraged good dietary habits nor did it encourage physical activity.

Just weeks later two ads for Kellogg’s LCMs products were also found to breach the RCMI for very similar reasons. Parents are encouraged to write a personalised message on the wrappers of these bars before putting them in their children’s lunchbox. Both ads take the viewer inside the imaginations of the children featured in the ad with animations and a storyline that appeals to children’s sense of wonderment and adventure. In their response, Kellogg’s said in relation to physical activity that “it would be reasonable to infer that once the child has finished their lunch, she/he would join his/her friends and take part in various physical activities in the school playground”. Kellogg’s also said the message to parents to “write on their LCMs wrappers everyday” relates to “the generation of an exciting fact everyday and not consumption of our product everyday”.

Both Coco Pops and LCMs meet the Kellogg’s Global Nutrient Criteria for a healthier dietary choice despite most people considering them as foods to ‘eat only sometimes and in small amounts’ according to the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating because of their high sugar content.

Jane Martin, executive manager of The Obesity Policy Coalition who lodged the three complaints said in relation to the Coco Pops ad, “the ad was clearly directed to children - I can't imagine many adults being enticed by cartoon characters having a pool party and playing a children's game. Claims by Kellogg that the ad was directed at grocery buyers are outrageous.” Following the results two weeks later she said, “We know the power and influence of advertisements using cartoon characters and fantasy on children, as do parents. These ads create pester power, something which undermines the efforts of parents and educators. This flagrant marketing to children is irresponsible at a time when children's diets are so poor, leading to increasing rates of overweight and obesity. “

Advertising Standards Board Case Reports 0144/13, 0179/13, 0180/13

Community campaigns say no to McDonald's

No McDonald’s in Tecoma

This campaign goes back to 2011 when McDonald’s lodged a development application to open a 24hr store in Tecoma, a small town (population just over 2000) in Victoria’s Dandenong ranges, 40km from Melbourne. A record number of objections were received by the local council which rejected the application. Objections included that the location for the development was opposite a primary and pre-school, and the impact on traffic, litter, noise, crime, and local businesses. In 2012, the Shire of Yarra Ranges Council’s decision was overruled by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal after McDonald’s appealed to the State authority. Since then the campaign has been fought on the ground with traditional campaign techniques such as rallies and sit-ins but it has also been accompanied by new campaign methods including an online petition which to date has over 90,000 signatures and worldwide twitter coverage. While the original buildings on the site have now been demolished, the community has not given up and their campaign continues to grow.

The campaign has again raised concerns of the need for consideration of potential health impacts in local council planning decisions.


No McDonald's sponsorship of Little Athletics

Through the looking glassMcDonald’s is a sponsor of the Little Athletics program in all states of Australia. An online petition by a Victorian mum asking Little Athletics to drop McDonald’s sponsorship has reached over ten thousand signatures.

Last year, the Advertising Standards Board ruled that an email to young children encouraging them to attend a Little Athletics coaching clinic and offering McDonald’s branded showbag and “a chance to meet a special guest in 'big red shoes'” was outside their scope because “it is not related to Advertising or Marketing Communication”. We thought it was advertising to children and so do the people who have signed the online petition.

Latest Research

Playing advergames that promote food, even fruit can increase energy intake

advergamesAdvergames are free online games that contain advertising messages, logos or product-related characters. They offer an interactive brand experience beyond normal advertising but we have limited understanding of what effect that may have on children. A Dutch study looked at how much food (lollies and fruit) children consumed while playing different games. Some children played a game promoting confectionery, fruit or a toy while others were used as a control and did not play a game. Children who played games promoting either food ate more than the other children. Even the children who played the fruit game ate more confectionery but not more fruit. The effect was not limited to the brand of food advertised as the children who played any game promoting food ate more of the confectionery.

Studies such as this are important to inform policy decisions that aim to protect children from food marketing.

Folkvord F, Anschutz DJ, Buijzen M, Valkenburg PM. The effect of playing advergames that promote energy-dense snacks or fruit on actual food intake among children. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2013.

Sharp division in evidence between peer-reviewed papers and industry-sponsored reports

A systematic review of studies into the levels of exposure of children to advertising of unhealthy foods has found peer-reviewed papers from countries around the world show continued high levels of advertising for unhealthy foods. In contrast, industry-sponsored reports showed good compliance to voluntary codes for marketing to children. The authors conclude the difference in these findings must be due to what is being measured and that while industry-sponsored studies may show compliance to their codes, the loopholes in the codes mean that there is still advertising to children that undermines healthy diets.

The loopholes in the Australian self-regulatory initiatives are highlighted in an editorial in the Medical Journal of Australia which talks about challenges in defining “advertising to children”. This is particularly highlighted by the large numbers of children watching television in the early evening during popular shows compared to numbers watching the afternoon “C” rated shows which are most likely covered by the definitions in the initiatives. The authors say that “the initiatives seem to be missing the mark as a socially responsible approach to the marketing of foods to children”.

And in the US an article looking at the Federal Trade Commission report on marketing expenditure has highlighted limits in the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative. Examples of the limited scope of that self-regulatory initiative include marketing techniques not covered (product packaging, sponsorship etc), the small number of fast food restaurants signed up to the Initiative, the number of ads children see in general audience programming times compared to dedicated children’s programs and the extent of mobile marketing to children 12-14 years.

Galbraith-Emami S, Lobstein T. The impact of initiatives to limit the advertising of food and beverage products to children: a systematic review. Obes Rev 2013.

Smithers LG, Merlin TL, Lynch JW. The impact of industry self-regulation on television marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to Australian children. Med J Aust 2013; 199(3):148-149.

Powell LM, Harris JL, Fox T, Food marketing expenditures aimed at youth. Am J Prev Med 2013 online

Parents swallow healthy food marketing hype

How do we untangle the facts from the advertising hype when it comes to selecting food? A study in Australia looking at the role of food labelling among low income families with overweight children found that nutrition information in television advertisements had an influence on parent’s food choices. In interviews some participants reported they felt good about their parenting by providing a particular brand of lollies to their children describing them as ‘healthy’ and ‘all natural’. This brand of confectionery is featured in a long-running television advertising campaign which talks about the product as having ‘no artificial flavours’ and ‘97% fat free’.

Pettigrew S, Pescud M. The Salience of Food Labeling Among Low-income Families With Overweight Children. J Nutr Educ Behav 2013; 45(4):332-339

International Roundup

EU report highlights social media food marketing boom

Through the looking glassWHO Europe has released a report highlighting the increase in advertising spend on new media such as smart phone apps and social media as increasing numbers of children access the internet. Online advertising is reported to have exceeded TV advertising for the first time in the UK in 2009 while the majority (85% in 2011) of 8-11 year olds in the UK have access to the internet from home. The report also summarises progress in WHO European member states regarding food marketing to children. Most member states have general advertising regulations that do not specifically address the promotion of foods high in fat, sugar and salt. In releasing the report, Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe said, “Policy must catch up and address the reality of an obese childhood in the 21st century”.

World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe. Marketing of foods high in fat, salt and sugar to children: update 2012-2013.

Another US fast food chain drops kids’ meals and toys

In the US, Taco Bell has announced that it will discontinue kids’ meals and toys in 2014. The CEO is reported as saying the move is about positioning the brand for youth and offering kids meals is inconsistent with that.

According to the US Federal Trade Commission report, A review of food marketing to children and adolescents : follow-up report 2012, $393 million was spent in 2009 on premiums, such as free toys, mostly in fast food stores. Over a third of the reported decline in food and beverage marketing expenditure to children and adolescents in the US from 2006 to 2009 is due to a decrease in expenditure on toys in kids’ meals. While this drop was due to a drop in both the number and cost of premiums, it did not reflect a reduction in targeted marketing of restaurant meals to children. Fast food marketing to children on TV increased.

Powell LM, Harris JL, Fox T, Food marketing expenditures aimed at youth. Am J Prev Med 2013 online