Junk Food Injunction- Latest Edition
Message from the Editors
This edition of Junk Food Injunction includes some compelling new studies strengthening the evidence we have about links between food marketing and childhood obesity.
Regards Wendy .
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A new Cancer Council NSW study has just been published highlighting that the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) nutrient profiling criteria could be used to provide an independent assessment of the overall healthiness of a product and would be suitable for use in regulating food marketing to children.
In Australia, FSANZ has developed criteria to determine that only healthier food can carry labelling claims about improved health benefits. When it comes to determining the healthiness of food that can be advertised to children, the food industry’s Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative lets companies set their own criteria and there are 14 different company criteria to decipher. This means Kellogg’s Coco Pops, Arnott’s Tiny Teddies and Nestle Smarties can all be promoted to children according to the standards set by their respective manufacturers. For fast food, the Quick Service Restaurant Initiative only covers advertising of children’s meals, but foods like KFC’s Mint Choc Krusher and McDonald’s Chicken N’ Cheese Burger fall outside that definition so could be advertised to children.
Applying the FSANZ criteria would provide a level playing field for all companies and help to reduce children’s exposure to junk food advertisements.
Watson W, Johnston A, Hughes C, Chapman K. Determining the 'healthiness' of foods marketed to children on television using the Food Standards Australia New Zealand nutrient profiling criteria. Nutrition & Dietetics 2014;doi:10.1111/1747-0080.12127
Preschool children in Ireland have a greater knowledge of unhealthy food brands than healthy brands. In a recent study, researchers compared 3-5 year old children's knowledge of brand logos and product images. They found unhealthy brand knowledge was related to the amount of television they viewed but there were no differences between children from Northern Ireland where there have been television advertising restrictions on high fat, sugar and salt foods since 2007 and those from the Republic of Ireland which had no restrictions. The authors suggest this could indicate that advertising restrictions in Northern Ireland do not protect children from seeing advertising outside of children's programming times and children are actually seeing advertisements at other times. As well, the researchers point out that children are exposed to advertising in other forms such as food packaging, brand characters, point of sale marketing and digital media. The study found that children's knowledge of brands increased with age and by five years old they could recognise nearly all unhealthy brands but only just over half the healthy brands. The authors concluded that healthy eating interventions need to reach children early before brand effect influences.
Tatlow-Golden M, Hennessy E, Dean M, Hollywood L. Young children's food brand knowledge. Early development and associations with television viewing and parent's diet. Appetite 2014 Sep;80:197-203
Studies continue to clarify the link between food marketing and obesity, sometimes thought to be a gap in present evidence. We know that food marketing influences children's food preferences, the foods they ask their parents to buy and their perception of the taste of those foods. But recent studies have looked at a link between children's weight and food brand knowledge.
Using a range of food brand collages, a research group in the US found that those 3-6 year olds with a knowledge of packaged and fast food brands tended to have a higher BMI. This result was not affected by extent of TV viewing. Brand knowledge measured not just logo recognition but awareness and differentiation of brands. The authors explain that food preferences are formed early and are reliant on repeated exposure so this information should inform policy around healthy environments for families.
A 2013 study of youth aged 15-23 years found a direct association between receptivity to fast food advertising and obesity. Receptivity was measured by showing the participants stills of fast food ads shown on television in the past year and asking them a series of questions to identify their recognition and liking for the ad and ability to identify the brand. Even after controlling for TV time, soft drink consumption and frequency of fast food visits, receptivity to fast food ads was still associated with obesity. This suggests increased awareness of advertising influences choices and so consumption of fast food in youth.
Cornwell TB, McAlister AR, Polmear-Swendris N. Children's knowledge of packaged and fast food brands and their BMI. Why the relationship matters for policy makers. Appetite 2014;In Press.
McClure A, Tanski S, Gilbert-Diamond D, Adachi-Mejia A, Li Z, Li Z, et al. Receptivity to television fast-food restaurant marketing and obesity among u.s. Youth. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2013 Nov;45(5):560-8.
A study of 2-9 year olds in Sweden showed that the likelihood of consuming sugar sweetened beverages at least one to three times a week increased by 50% with each hour a day of television watched. The prevalence of children drinking sweetened beverages was greater if their parents drank them as well but this was accounted for in the analysis. The likelihood of consuming sugar sweetened beverages at least weekly doubled in children whose parents did not limit their exposure to ads, showing that children's dietary habits could be influenced through their TV habits. A larger study of 2-9 year olds across eight European countries showed a relationship between increased BMI and increased sugar sweetened beverage consumption for each hour per day of TV watched.
Olafsdottir S, Berg C, Eiben G, Lanfer A, Reisch L, Ahrens W, et al. Young children's screen activities, sweet drink consumption and anthropometry: results from a prospective European study. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2014 Feb;68(2):223-8.
Olafsdottir S, Eiben G, Prell H, Hense S, Lissner L, Mårild S, et al. Young children's screen habits are associated with consumption of sweetened beverages independently of parental norms. International Journal of Public Health 2014 Feb;59(1):67-75.
In 2011, San Francisco brought in an ordinance prohibiting restaurants from giving away toys with children's meals that do not meet set nutritional criteria. A study looked at the effect this had on two global restaurant chain's menus. In contrast to the intent of the ordinance, both restaurants responded by offering toys for an additional ten cents with the purchase of a children's meal. They were able to do this because the ordinance contained the word 'free'. One chain did change its children's meal before the ordinance; to half apple slices and half French fries as the default side dish, stopped serving caramel sauce with the apple slices and offered a fat free milk option. The study found this significantly reduced the calories, sodium and fat per order in children's meals. In Santa Clara County where the word 'free' was not used in its ordinance, restaurants began to market healthier children's meals or stopped toy giveaways altogether. This study highlights the importance of wording of policies but also shows that healthier defaults can have an impact on the nutritional profile of fast food.
Legislation seems to be spreading with recent efforts in New York City to bring in legislation setting nutrition standards for meals using toys and other incentives aimed at children. According to the Federal Trade Commission fast food companies in the US spent $340 million on toy giveaways in 2009.
Otten JJ, Saelens BE, Kapphahn KI, Hekler EB, Buman MP, Goldstein BA. Impact of San Francisco's Tty ordinance on restaurants and children's food purchases, 2011-2012. Prev Chronic Dis 2014;11:E122
Advergames are online games used to advertise a brand or product. Many Australian food companies have advergames on their websites or as downloadable apps. It may be more difficult for some children to resist food cues caused by exposure to this advertising. Adding to previous studies, a study from the Netherlands has shown that 7-10 year old children playing an advergame promoting confectionery ate more confectionery than children playing an advergame promoting toys. The researchers classified children as high impulsive or low impulsive and separated them into those who were told they could eat as much as they wanted and those who were told they could eat as much as they wanted but if they didn't eat anything they would be given a reward. They found that all children told about the reward decreased their intake except for those classified as highly impulsive who played the snack advergame. The children who were more impulsive were shown to be more susceptible to the food advertising in the game.
Folkvord F, Anschütz D, Nederkoorn C, Westerik H, Buijzen M. Impulsivity, "Advergames," and Food Intake. Pediatrics 2014 Jun;133(6):1007-12
Modelled on the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the World Obesity Federation and Consumers International have released Recommendations towards a Global Convention to protect and promote healthy diets. The Convention aims to protect future generations from avoidable diet-related illnesses. Measures within the Convention include:
- Public awareness and social marketing campaigns,
- Provision of clear nutrition information,
- Responsible food advertising, promotion and sponsorship,
- Controls on advertising, promotion and sponsorship to children,
- Improved nutritional quality of foods and reduced levels of potentially harmful nutrients,
- Nutritional standards for public institutions such as schools and hospitals,
- Interventions to support positive consumption patterns such as improved availability and access,
- Economic measures such as taxes and subsidies to address availability, accessibility and affordability.
The recommendations recognise the need for a range of policy initiatives to address the global growth in non-communicable diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancers and diabetes.
It's that time of the year again. Have you seen an unhealthy food ad on television, in digital media or involving sports sponsorship that you think targets children? Then nominate it for the Parents' Jury Fame and Shame Awards. You can also nominate ads that promote healthy food to children in a fun and appealing way.
To submit your nomination or to find out more about The Parents' Jury Fame & Shame Awards click here