July 27, 2006 | Graham

Children not the target of junk food ads

The lates push to ban junk food advertising appears to be at least partly based on an unsustainable interpretation of fairly mundane research by the Cancer Council NSW.
I can’t be quite sure of this, because incredibly in this day and age the research doesn’t appear to be up on the Council’s website. However, this is what the SMH report says:

“SNACK and fast-food companies routinely flout guidelines on television advertising to children and deliberately encourage a junk-food culture in which children no longer know how to eat healthily, according to Australia’s most comprehensive study on advertising content.
Nearly a third of all television advertising is for unhealthy or non-essential foods, according to the research by Cancer Council NSW…
Cancer Council NSW’s nutrition manager, Kathy Chapman, said the food industry targeted children with messages that they did not have the sophistication to reject.”

So what is this damning research based on?

The findings are based on an analysis of more than 10,000 ads from 645 hours of television screened in Sydney, Brisbane, Tamworth and Ballarat in June last year. Weekday ads for unhealthy foods peaked at an average of five an hour between 6pm and 9pm on commercial, free-to-air channels, according to the analysis. Nationally, 25 per cent of advertising across all categories was for unhealthy foods. The effect was magnified by a lack of promotion for basic, healthy foods — which accounted for only 19 per cent of total food ads.

It would appear that by monitoring compliance to Commonwealth Laws it is possible to not only determine that the industry is trying to “encourage a junk food culture” rather than sell their own products, but to work out that children don’t have the ability to understand what is going on. Unless this survey is supported by interviews and proper surveying of children and manufacturers these conclusions are unsupportable.
My observation of advertising for these sorts of foods suggests that children aren’t necessarily the target at all. As the report says:

Weekday ads for unhealthy foods peaked at an average of five an hour between 6pm and 9pm on commercial, free-to-air channels, according to the analysis.

I noticed that earlier this week in the gym when I was watching ads for LCMs and some cheese cracker biscuits long after kids would have gone to bed. They weren’t targeting kids at that time – it was whoever was packing the lunch boxes for tomorrow morning.
Time to stop blaming the evil corporates for flogging their wares and time to demand responsibility of those whose job it is to teach kids the difference between junk and quality. The problem’s not with the advertisers but the parents.

Posted by Graham at 8:39 pm | Comments (6) |
Filed under: Australian Politics


  1. The ‘problem’ is ‘with the parents’?
    I’m not sure what problem exists here.
    Is it the censorhip of television that’s a problem? Or the belief that advertising can ‘brainwash’ kids into being ‘unhealthy’? Or even more fantastic a problem, that parents are ‘brainwashed’ by TV ads to make their children ‘unhealthy’?
    I think the author is getting a bit ahead of himself. Doesn’t one have to except it is a fact our children have a health problem in the first place or at least are less healthy than previous generations? And if so by which criteria?
    I think the ‘generation in peril’ thesis needs to be put to bed. Certainly before we can debate the wild fantasies of the angst ridden class who think other people are programmed by TV to damage their children.

    Comment by Dom McCarthy — July 28, 2006 @ 10:21 am

  2. Graham , do you really believe what you are saying ?? I suggest you are having a lend of the readers.
    Just like the tobacco companies with their fast car ads – you can make more money if you get the young hooked early .

    Comment by kartiya — July 30, 2006 @ 10:58 pm

  3. Dom,
    I think there is a general problem with children eating too much junk food, although I think it is over-stated both in magnitude and its contribution to obesity. But I don’t blame the manufacturers so much as the parents. My kids watch the same ads as other kids, but they don’t overdose on junk foods because neither of their parents buys them for them.
    I’m not really sure what you are saying. That junk food is addictive and damaging to your health in the way that smoking is? Bit hard to justify that.

    Comment by Graham Young — July 31, 2006 @ 10:16 am

  4. Graham , I have just been told by my learned wife, the reason i have just asked for another two pieces of chocolate is because that as well as having a nice sweet taste,i also have a craving for the caffeine that’s in it.
    Just to back her up, my daughter has proclaimed it’s all written down in her year 12 psychology text book ;but she is the one that always brings home the 10 kilos of Cadburys chocky frogs for her school and netball fundraisers!!

    Comment by kartiya — August 1, 2006 @ 11:10 pm

  5. Mundane research – really. I was checking out of my local Woolworths and guess what – at kids eye level are stacked dozens of snack bars and sweets, right where the queue is and where you can’t walk away, and every exit point. You don’t have to do research to know there is something going on. It’s multifactorial. Kids don’t play in the parks or walk to school anymore because of parental fear of lurking child molesters – they are behind every tree and in every toilet did you know. Kids lie in front of the box at every spare minute. It’s their baby sitter while mum and dad work and work and toil and work to pay the never ending mortgage. The kids have to get their own meals – junk meals bought from junk food supermarkets – Coles, Woolworths, Bi-Lo… OK lets do some more research to tell us the bleeding obvious so the intellectual twits will get believe it.

    Comment by barfenzie — August 5, 2006 @ 5:14 pm

  6. Its easy to point the finger when finding somebody to blame for what is turning into a chronic health problem for our children as well as adults. Lets do something to prevent these kids ending up on the already ‘too fat’ casualty list.
    When an obese person walks into the diabetes clinic, do we say ‘ sorry, it’s your mothers fault, can’t help’?
    Any method that reduces the amount of junk being consumed by all sectors of the community can only be a step in the right direction.

    Comment by Yvette — August 17, 2006 @ 10:36 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.