ACMA finds no reduction in kids’ exposure to junk food ads

There is no evidence to show self regulation has reduced the amount of junk food advertisements children are exposed to, a report by the Australian Communication and Media Authority has found.

Two key food industry initiatives, the Australian Food and Grocery Council’s Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative (the ‘AFGC Initiative’) and the Quick Service Restaurant Industry’s initiative for Responsible Advertising and Marketing to Children (the ‘QSR initiative’) were introduced in 2009.

But the ACMA has found it is unclear if either initiative has actually reduced the amount of advertisements for junk food children are exposed to.

The recently created Australian National Preventive Health Agency (‘ANPHA’) will play a major role in monitoring the amount of food ads and will create future obesity prevention strategies, the report said.

“As the broadcasting regulator, the ACMA reiterates that it is neither equipped nor resourced to make independent judgements on issues of preventive health’ said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman.

“The ACMA’s view is that the ANPHA is ideally placed to inform and promote a whole-of-government response to the challenges of childhood overweight and obesity and looks forward to working collaboratively with the ANPHA on these issues wherever appropriate.’

The AFGC issued a response to the ACMA’s findings, saying the industry regulation is “categorically working in Australia.”

It rejected the claims in the report and pointed to independent research which shows 2.4 per cent of advertising on children’s TV were for HFSS foods between March and May 2010 and said those that did appear were there due to mistakes.

“Banning advertising of HFSS food products during times when families are watching television together should not be imposed in Australia because it’s a ‘family choice’ issue,” AFGC chief executive Kate Carnell said.

“But when children are watching television on their own is a different matter – during these programs, industry does have a responsibility to advertise healthy foods.

“Industry is taking this responsibility seriously.”

Carnell also said there is no evidence to link food advertising to obesity.

The AFGC declined to provide further comments to Food Magazine on the issue.

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