How food advertising is endangering our kid’s health

22 September 2017 | Wendy Watson

Junk food ads targeting kids on devices
Despite advances in health and medicine, it is predicted that the current generation of 20 year olds in westernized countries may be the first to have a lower life expectancy than their parents.

This alarming prediction is largely due to diet and it’s preventable.

We know that being overweight or obese increases the risk of 11 different types of cancer. Evidence now shows that being overweight, not doing enough physical activity, eating too much red and processed meat and not eating enough fruit and vegetables cause nearly as many cancer cases as smoking.

According to a recent NSW Ministry of Health report, NSW is experiencing unprecedented levels of overweight and obesity in children. The report reveals that only 1 in 20 children eat the recommended amount of vegetables daily, with 1 in 2 children eating an unhealthy snack every day.

Preventing weight gain in children is extremely important as the majority of overweight or obese children will go on to be overweight in adulthood.


Junk food advertising and pester power

Parents face an uphill battle trying to maintain a healthy diet for their kids.

Advertising influences what foods children like, what they pester their parents to buy and what they want to eat. Australian children are being targeted and manipulated by junk food marketing. It’s happening in the shows they watch as a family, through the sports they support and it follows them when they are online.

What children eat is reflected by what they see advertised on TV and its skewed towards junk food. Cancer Council recently analysed the ads shown during some popular prime time TV shows.  We found over 10 junk food ads per hour during the Australian Ninja Warrior grand final and over 8 ads per hour during The Voice. And the food advertised reflects the unhealthy foods that children eat; fast food, sugary drinks and snacks.

Junk food advertising on a bus

And it’s not just on TV, Aussie kids are bombarded with junk food ads everywhere they go. From when they wake up in the morning on TV or radio, billboards on the way to school, in their friend’s lunchboxes, on their sports equipment, at the shops and not to mention on social media and the internet.

On average kids pester their parents 15 times in every trip to the supermarket and they are successful in half of these attempts. Three quarters of parents say they have bought a product for the first time because their child pestered them for it – that’s what junk food marketers are counting on!

Marketers know that if they can reach our children, they can reach our wallets. It’s a tried and tested technique, but it’s a technique that’s putting the very future of our children at risk.

 Junk food at childs eye level in supermarket


Isn’t advertising to children regulated?

Currently there is very limited government involvement in advertising to children in Australia. Instead the food industry has developed their own voluntary regulation system to decide whether or not their advertising targets children. TV shows like the ones mentioned above are not considered to be targeted at children.

We know that self-regulation doesn’t work. Cancer Council NSW recommends that Government develop tougher food marketing regulations to protect our children from unhealthy food and beverage advertising, across all media and forms of marketing. 

Importantly, any regulatory system must reflect children’s media use, including the broadcast periods when the highest numbers of children are watching or using media, and the types of persuasive marketing techniques used to target children. To ensure the fidelity of regulations, these should be actively monitored and enforced.

Join us in our campaign to tighten the regulations and protect our kids from junk food marketing. Parenting is difficult at the best of times. Restricting manipulative junk food marketing will help our children on a healthier path into adult life and help us work towards a cancer-free future.

They’re Our Kids, it’s Our Call!