The Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) has welcomed today's announcement by the Australian Labor Party (ALP) to consider banning aggressive and pervasive marketing of unhealthy food to children.
The ALP is proposing a restriction on the use of licensed characters, toys, games and giveaways in the promotion of food and drinks to children.
Senior Policy Adviser for the OPC, Ms Jane Martin, said the use of popular characters and toys together with products, usually food high in fat, sugar or salt, does drive children to pester their parents to buy these products.
"This is an important first step in the fight against childhood obesity. Parents are very concerned about this type of marketing of unhealthy food to their children. The next step is to continue lobbying for a comprehensive ban on junk food advertising to children.
"The strategy of collectable toys is commonly used by fast food companies to attract children. It also encourages repeat purchases to make up the complete set of toys on offer.
"These pervasive techniques undermine parents' ability to make healthy food choices for their children, particularly when there are extensive promotions in supermarkets with characters such as Shrek and The Simpsons, which have wide appeal," said Ms Martin.
Ms Martin also said there is a great concern about the use of these types of promotional strategies among parents and the general public, and there is strong support from parents for government regulation to restrict these techniques.
"The most well known example of the use of premiums to promote unhealthy foods to children is the use of collectable toys.
"A recent national survey* found more than three-quarters of Australian parents were concerned about food advertising to children promoting free toys or gifts with products.
"Almost 70 per cent of parents were ‘somewhat' or ‘very concerned' about the use of popular characters or personalities to promote unhealthy foods to children."
The Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) is a collaboration of major health organisations including Diabetes Australia - Victoria, The Cancer Council Victoria and Deakin University. The broad objectives of the OPC are to identify, analyse and advocate for evidence-based policy and regulatory initiatives to reduce overweight and obesity, particularly in children.
*Coalition on Food Advertising to Children (CFAC) survey of 400 Australian parents, conducted in March 2007.
Media contact: Emma Fay, (03) 9635 5207 or 0415 477 537