Fast food advertisers found to flout their own rules

Thursday 24 December, 2009

A coalition of peak health bodies congratulates the Advertising Standards Board for upholding two complaints about fast food advertising to children.

Jane Martin from the Obesity Policy Coalition said, we are pleased that the ASB has recognised that children are vulnerable to fast food advertising that plays on their love of cartoon characters and free toys.

Ms Martin said every parent knows that free toys and fun characters are very attractive to children. Toys are the driver of pester power, the meal becomes secondary.

The ASB upheld the Obesity Policy Coalition's complaint about an ad for McDonald's Happy Meals featuring a monkey promoting collectable Cartoon Network toys. The Board found that the ad breached a clause of the voluntary code for advertising to children because it focused on the fun animated monkey and collectable toys and failed to make it clear to children that the aim was to promote a fast food meal.

The Coalition also welcomes the ASB's decision to uphold its complaint about a Hungry Jacks television ad promoting a free Sponge Bob Square Pants toy with a Kids Club meal. The ad was found to contravene a voluntary advertising code recently developed by fast food advertisers.

Ms Martin said that the Kids Club meal, which consisted of three chicken nuggets and a bottle of water failed to meet the code's nutrition criteria for advertising to children because there was too much saturated fat in the meal.

"It is very concerning to the Coalition that Hungry Jacks has failed to adhere to an advertising code that they helped to develop by continuing to promote high fat foods to children.

"While we are pleased with the ASB rulings, it is unfortunate that by the time the complaints were heard and a ruling made, both ads had long finished their run on TV. The fast food companies have already profited from their campaigns and many children will have pestered their parents for a trip to McDonalds or Hungry Jacks to collect the latest fast food toy.

"This is a slap on the wrist with a feather for these fast food companies. We need stronger sanctions that will deter similar advertising in the future. The Coalition will continue to push for government intervention to ensure children are provided with the protection that they deserve," said Ms Martin.

About the Obesity Policy Coalition

The Obesity Policy Coalition is a group of leading public health agencies who are concerned about the escalating levels of overweight and obesity, particularly in children.

The Obesity Policy Coalition partners include Diabetes Australia Victoria, The Cancer Council Victoria, Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth) and the World Health Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention at Deakin University.