Protecting children from junk food marketing

The World Health Organisation has concluded the marketing of unhealthy foods to children is a probable cause of weight gain. Overweight children are likely to become overweight adults and being overweight or obese increases the risk of some types of cancer.

Every day children are exposed to junk food marketing through advertising or product placement on television, in movies and in electronic games, on-pack giveaways and competitions, in-store promotions, sponsorship of sport or education programs, billboards and on the internet. They are a particularly vulnerable audience that doesn’t fully understand the persuasive intent of advertising, being easily deceived by ads.

While parents obviously have an important role to play in ensuring their children eat a healthy diet, limiting their children’s exposure to the influence of junk food marketing is one important strategy in the battle against obesity in childhood and the development of healthy eating habits for life.

The current regulatory environment for junk food marketing to children is complex and fragmented and full of loopholes that mean children remain exposed to advertising of unhealthy foods. The Australian Government has been hoping industry self-regulation will be enough to encourage food companies to clean up their act on their own, but so far it’s had little impact on the food advertising children see on TV. With increased access to the internet, food advertising through websites encouraging kids to play food branded games (advergames) and viral marketing urging them to tell their friends about a product, is becoming more common. Recent changes to the self-regulations have done little to reduce children’s exposure to junk food marketing.

Reducing children and young people’s exposure to the marketing and advertising of unhealthy foods is included under Strategic Direction 1 in the NSW Healthy Eating and Active Living Strategy: Preventing overweight and obesity in New South Wales 2013-2018.

Cancer Council NSW wants improved regulation to protect children from junk food marketing. To keep up-to-date with our campaign or to find out more visit Our Kids, Our Call.