Sugar coated regulations fail to save children

Sunday 26 June 2011

Attempts to tackle Australia’s childhood obesity crisis have been dealt a blow with voluntary regulations failing to reduce the level of junk food advertising to children, while the number of fast foods ads overall have increased.

 New University of Sydney and Cancer Council research published today in the Medical Journal of Australia has revealed that people who watch just three hours of television per day are exposed to more than 1640 fast food ads per year – a jump of more than 430 ads per year since industry regulations were introduced in August 2009.

 One of the study’s authors and Cancer Council nutritionist, Kathy Chapman, said the voluntary code had failed in what was supposedly its key objective, to reduce the number of fast food advertisements screened specifically during peak children’s viewing hours.  

 Six major fast food companies established the Australian Quick Service Restaurant Industry Initiative for Responsible Advertising and Marketing to Children (QSRI) in August 2009 to appease community concern on fast food advertising to children.

 But according to Ms Chapman, the “sugar coated” code should be scrapped and replaced with “clear and meaningful regulations” that protect children at times they are watching television and reduce their exposure to the wrong types of food.  

 “One in four Australian children are overweight or obese and this important study confirms what we have known for a long time; junk food companies have failed to clean up their act under voluntary self regulations,” she said.

 “Parents are up against an unchecked multi million dollar junk food industry and it’s not surprising that more than eight out of ten* believe children should be protected from this deceptive marketing.  

 Cancer Council has encouraged concerned parents to visit where they can have a voice on the campaign to ban junk food advertising to children.  




Notes to editors

  • The study published in the Medical Journal of Australia showed that the number of fast food adverts increased from 1.1 per hour in May 2009 (before the QSRI code was introduced) to 1.5 per hour in April 2010.  
  •  The study showed that the number of junk food adverts screened during peak children’s viewing hours has remained unchanged at 1.3 per hour since the code was introduced.    
  •  *83% of grocery buyers want the government to step in and ban this type of advertising at times when children watch TV. The majority of respondents (95%) who support a ban would like to see it implemented on TV from at least 4pm to 9:30pm (figures from Obesity Prevention Policy Proposals: Public Acceptability 2008 to 2010 study).


Media contact: Luke Alexander 0413 886 578