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Australia turns significant corner in children’s food advertising: AFGC

By Ankush Chibber , 10-May-2012
Last updated on 10-May-2012 at 18:20 GMT

A promising decrease in unhealthy children's adverts congratulated by the AFGC
A promising decrease in unhealthy children's adverts congratulated by the AFGC

New research has shown that advertisements for high fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) foods have fallen to almost zero in Australia, according to the country’s Food and Grocery Council (AFGC).

Data analysis in the RCMI (Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative) Activity Report for 2011, showed that just 0.7% of all HFSS food and beverage adverts on children’s TV between March to May 2011 targeted children aged under the age of 12.

This represents a 60% decrease in such advertising compared with last year; a major achievement, the AFGC said.

The report covered free-to-air television, including digital TV, from five major capital cities Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney over a 24-hour period over 92 days, the AFGC said.

Dr Geoffrey Annison, acting chief executive of the AFGC, said the compelling statistics showed a major improvement process for industry and highlighted the ongoing success of the RCMI initiative.

The RCMI has been running since 2009 when 17 leading food manufacturers committed not to advertise to children under 12, unless they promoted nutritious dietary choices and a healthy lifestyle.

“The latest advertising figures confirm that adverts are not running during TV programs aimed at children,” Annison said, and these figures highlight the value of industry codes in moderating the promotion of food products.

Always continuing to improve

“Notwithstanding this, AFGC and its members are always looking to improve the way codes operate and their effectiveness,” he said.

“We look forward to continuing discussions with government and public health advocates to ensure the RCMI is aligned with community expectations, remains practical for industry to implement and is supporting better diets,” Annison added.

This latest report is comforting in light of other past reports that led the state of South Australia to call for a ban on advertising of unhealthy foods to children.

In November 2011, John Mill, South Australia’s Health Minister launched a scathing attack on the food industry saying that industry codes to reduce advertising of HFSS foods were not working.

Mill cited surveys, which saw over 2,000 South Australians aged 18 and above polled in 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2011, by the South Australian Department of Health (DOH).

Overall data collated from the research demonstrated a high level of concern regarding this issue, with a ban on advertising of unhealthy foods during children’s viewing times the solution with the most support.

The DOH said that 70% of participants agreed that there is too much advertising of unhealthy food during children’s viewing time and 82% of respondents agreed that government should regulate the way food or drink is advertised and marketed to children.

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