The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) has slammed calls to ban licensed characters on food products, labelling it unnecessary.
It says Australian food companies have already stopped using characters in advertising high fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) food products to children.
Yesterday the Cancer Council NSW announced it has submitted a proposal to have the use of cartoons and sporting stars in advertisements high in sugars, fats and salts banned.
AFGC chief executive Kate Carnell said under the Responsible Children’s Marketing Inititative (RCMI), many companies have already stopped using licensed characters in advertising unhealthy foods to children under 12.
“Industry has removed licensed characters from advertising HFSS food products to children in a range of different media such as TV, radio, online and in school canteens – under the RCMI,” Carnell said.
“Licensed characters such as Coco the Monkey and Freddo Frog have been around for decades in Australia – the obesity epidemic only started in the 1980’s.
“So you simply can’t blame the obesity problem on Coco and Freddo.
“There’s also been a strong online backlash over calls for a ban today from Australian parents, with mums and dads saying the Cancer Council has taken the issue one-step-too-far.”
Recent research has shown an alarming one in four Australian children are overweight or obese and last month the Victorian government unveiled a $40 million campaign to educate families on healthy eating and exercise in an attempt to beat the bulge.
Carnell believes the RCMI has been effective in reducing the number of adverts targeting children for HFSS foods, pointing towards recent research which found only 2.4 per cent of advertisements on children’s television were unhealthy foods, and most were there due to errors by advertising agencies.
“Clearly these outcomes show that there is no need for advertising bans of HFSS foods on children’s’ television in Australia.
“Advertising bans, which amount to censorship, are not the answer to addressing Australia’s obesity problem,” Carnell said.
However, other statistics show that since the AFGC suggested to food advertisers that they should stop advertising unhealthy foods to children, the number of junk food ads on television screens has actually increased.
Many blame this on the fact the industry was never forced to comply and it was therefore left up to companies to decide to stop the practise themselves.
The number of fast food ads is even higher than it was before the code, and the amount of junk food ads seen on our screens hasn’t wavered.
So in June the Australian Medical Association (AMA) labeled the initiative a failure and called for government legislation to be introduced, because the self-regulation was not working.
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.
But the AFGC maintains it is working and said when similar regulations were introduced in other countries, it had the reverse effect.
“Similar bans on advertising these foods to children in Sweden and in Canada have been unsuccessful in combating obesity,” AFGC said in a statement.
“In fact, in Quebec after the ban was implemented, obesity tripled among boys and doubled for girls.
“A recent Productivity Commission study also found the link between TV viewing and childhood obesity was ‘small in magnitude’ and it was ‘difficult to discern a relationship between advertising and body weight’”.