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OPC calls for national approach to junk food advertising

Thursday 28 August, 2008

The Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) today applauded the South Australian and Queensland governments for their leadership in considering ways to protect young people from junk food advertising.

The OPC's senior policy advisor, Jane Martin said the widespread promotion of unhealthy food to young people was undermining the investment by the state and federal governments to promote healthy lifestyles and reduce overweight and obesity.

"The food industry spends over $200 million a year on advertising and a significant part of this is used to promote unhealthy, high fat, high salt, high sugar foods. A national approach restricting common forms of marketing used by advertisers to target children would be ideal, however until this is realised, it is important that states and territories act to put the health of children first and foremost," Ms Martin said.

"We are very concerned about the high level of junk food advertising targeting children and techniques used to engage with them such as the use of cartoon characters, giveaways and sponsorship of children's sport. Surveys show parents are also very concerned about these types of issues and want governments to regulate.

"Evidence shows that advertising influences the types of foods children want to eat and then pester their parents to buy. It creates real headaches for parents trying to instil healthy habits in their children.

"We commend Premier Bligh (Qld) and Minister Hill (SA) for taking a strong stance on this issue, however we would caution that restrictions should not just apply to advertising when children are watching television, but also take into account other media and promotional techniques such as the use of competitions, giveaways, cinema advertising and sponsorship of children's sports.

Action should proceed regardless of whether industry and TV stations act voluntarily, as we know from experience that self-regulation simply does not work. It's time for governments to bite the bullet and impose a legislative ban.

"Obviously junk food advertising is not the only issue that needs to be addressed. This is just one of a comprehensive set of actions necessary for us to make any sort of headway in the obesity crisis we are facing, where about 25% of Australian children overweight and obese, but we need to target the drivers of the problem."