The Cancer Council is the latest in the line of organisations and companies calling for cartoon characters and sporting stars advertising unhealthy foods to children.
Backed by the Obesity Policy Coalition and The Parents Jury, the Cancer Council NSW has submitted a proposal to ban promotional characters, tie-ins with movies and athletes promoting foods high in sugar, fat and salt.
Parents’ Jury campaign manager Corrina Langelaan said plain packaging should be the first move in the fight against pester power.
Cancer Council nutritionist Kathy Chapman said while plain packaging would be a step too far, changes need to be made.
"What we’d like to see is the removal of these promotional characters – whether they’re cartoon characters, sporting celebrities or movie tie-ins – from all foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt," she told The Sunday Telegraph.
Research done by the Cancer Council and the University of Sydney’s Prevention Research Collaboration, found almost 75 per cent of promotional characters on food packages which contain foods that would fail healthy nutritional requirements are targeted at children.
A separate study conducted in the US found nagging by children for food products increased dramatically when cartoon figures were used in advertisements, even if the child did not like the food itself.
Last month junk food giants Burger King and McDonald’s copped criticism for its decision not to join KFC to ban toys in children’s meals.
The Cancer Council has set its sights on Bubble O’Bill ice-creams, which have a quarter of a child’s recommended daily saturated fat intake in one 65g serve, and Kellogg’s Froot Loops, which have almost three teaspoons of sugar per 30g serve.
A 30g serve of Coco Pops there is more than one-third sugar and contains almost a third of a child’s daily sodium intake.
Obesity continues to be a major problem in Australia, with research showing one in four children is overweight or obese.
The Victorian government is spending $40 million on its Ministry of Food Campaign, to provide information sessions, a hotline and education on healthy food options and exercise.
Obesity Policy Coalition senior policy adviser Jane Martin has welcomed the move by the Cancer Council.
"We’d like to see these powerful kinds of endorsements by licensed characters, company-owned cartoons and celebrities not allowed on unhealthy foods," she said.
"Children in particular are vulnerable to this thing.
“They are familiar with the character so it’s not surprising when you are using Sponge Bob Square Pants and Bart Simpson to advertise food that children relate to these characters."
Martin said packaging was a major part of selling a product and while the organisation is in favour of sporting stars promotoing healthier foods, like cricketers and Weet-Bix, she disagrees with Ky Hurst being the face of Nutri-Grain because it is so high in sugar.
In the midst of the debate between the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) and Choice over the labelling of foods, a smartphone application with the controversial traffic light system was released by the Obesity Policy Coalition last week.