Media companies junk Government’s fast food advertising study: ‘True causes of obesity have much more to do with wealth, education, parents’

A report commissioned by the Albanese Government aimed at highlighting the dangers of fast food advertising on the health of Australian children has been slammed as a ‘quick fix’ by the media companies carrying this messaging.

The Healthy Kids Advertising Bill 2023 was tabled in federal parliament last June by independent MP Dr. Sophie Scamps. A feasibility study funded by the Albanese Government suggested a number of measures that would severely restrict fast food, such as banning prime time advertising, and targeted online ads.

“One priority strategy is to reduce children’s exposure to unhealthy food marketing, branding and sponsorships,” the report suggests.

Australian media companies are currently facing a shortfall in funding from Meta’s refusal to renew commercial deals, as well as threats against gambling advertising.

Last month, the Australian Medical Association backed a ban on TV advertising during prime time, while also calling for “tight restrictions on unhealthy food sponsorship of sports, arts and cultural events”.

“Eating habits start young, when kids are highly susceptible to marketing ploys,” AMA president, Professor Steve Robson, said.

“Limiting junk food advertisements and marketing is about nurturing health in our children, providing them with the opportunity to make healthy choices well into adulthood.”

Free TV, which represents the commercial free-to-air television stations, disagrees that marketing is the culprit.

“A policy that aims to have a lasting and meaningful impact on childhood obesity rates must not adopt a ‘quick fix’ that is not grounded in evidence,” Free TV’s chief Bridget Fair said.

“There is a paucity of research measuring the link between food marketing and childhood obesity rates. There is, however, sound data revealing that the true causes of obesity have much more to do with wealth, education, parents’ attributes and residential location than with exposure to marketing.”

Not surprisingly, Robson disagrees.

“We need to restrict placement and promotion of unhealthy food within retail environments, and we want a policy to extend beyond traditional media and include parts of our daily lives where children are influenced.”


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