Food Fight

Tuesday 17 January, 2023

Did you know that Victorian children are exposed to at least 25 unhealthy food and drink advertisements every day?

This advertising has a powerful influence on children, shaping what they eat, want to eat and ask for, leading to poor diets and putting their future health at risk. To give children the best chance of growing up healthy they must be protected from unhealthy food and drink advertising.

In 2022 Cancer Council Victoria launched Food Fight. This campaign has raised awareness and engaged parents about the issue of unhealthy food and drink advertising and the impact it's having on our kids' health.

As a Primary School teacher, Mitch sees first-hand the impact of unhealthy food and drink advertising on his students. Seeing it on billboards, trams and buses on his own route to school, he says this constant presence of fun, colourful advertising for unhealthy food and drinks has a strong influence on his students, shaping what they talk about, ask for and want.

"As a classroom teacher, I hear conversations around unhealthy foods that kids have seen whether that's on YouTube or public transport and there's never any conversations about the healthy choices they've made. They're always talking about those unhealthy foods they've been exposed to.

"When they're learning, playing or growing, they're seeing a lot of advertisements through their everyday life, and I can see that it's having an influence on the decisions they make.

"Companies shouldn't be allowed to have so much power over such a young audience", said Mitch.

 Food flight

New research has revealed the true impact of exposure to advertising on children, with a national survey of high school students finding:

  • Children who were exposed to high levels of food and drink advertising were more than twice as likely to have tried a new food and drink product compared to children with low exposure.
  • Children who were exposed to high levels of food and drink advertising were twice as likely to ask a parent for a product they had seen advertised.

In a nutshell, the more they see, the more they want, the more they consume.

Cancer Council Victoria CEO Todd Harper said the research reinforced the power of this advertising, even on older children, and it was time to put our kids' health above the profits of the processed food industry.

"We all want our kids to enjoy a healthy childhood, free from the influence of unhealthy food and drink advertising. But this is impossible when the processed food industry spends millions of dollars every year to advertise in places where they know children will see it.

"In 2019, over 60% of food and drink advertisements on Melbourne's public transport network and near schools were for unhealthy food and drinks. Why are we allowing the food industry to do this to our children knowing the effect it's having on their future health?" he said.

Mr Harper said there is an urgent need for state and federal governments to prioritise this issue in their jurisdiction.

"This campaign is part of a nation-wide approach to work with governments and health groups to raise the issue and protect our children from unhealthy food and drink advertising," he said.

Jane Martin, Executive Manager Obesity Program at Cancer Council Victoria said that there is a growing number of countries implementing similar marketing regulations.

"We know it works, because others have done it. Transport for London's ban on unhealthy food advertising was associated with an estimated 1,000 calorie decrease in energy from unhealthy food and drink purchases in people's weekly shopping, compared to what was expected without the changes. Amsterdam, New York and Canberra have also ensured their public transport is 100% free from unhealthy food and drink advertising. There's no reason Victoria can't be next," she said.

Since launching in March 2022, the campaign received strong support from the community. To date, over 10,000 people and 30 public health and community organisations have signed our online statement calling fora ban on unhealthy food and drink advertising within 500 metres of schools, and on public transport and transport infrastructure.

Join the Food Fight

Together, we can protect our kids from unhealth food and drink advertising.

Click here to sign up to support the campaign, share it with your networks and upload examples of unhealthy food and drink advertising around Victoria that is targeting kids.

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