No plans for a UK-style junk food ad ban say government and ad industry

There are no plans for a ban on junk food advertising, similar to that announced in the UK last week, with the Australian advertising industry and government uniting to continue with the status quo.

It was announced over the weekend that the UK Government will put in placed a country-wide pre-9pm ban on advertisements for food high in sugar, salt and fat, which will include foods such as chocolate, soft drinks, cakes, ice cream, chips and pizza, as well as breakfast cereals, yoghurts, ready meals, chicken nuggets and battered fish, from 2023.

The ban comes after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made obesity one of his top areas of concern, however it appears that this issue is not as high on the agenda here in Australia.

Megan McEwin, AANA

A spokesperson from Paul Fletcher, the Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts’ office told Mumbrella: “The Morrison Government is committed to keeping Australian children safe from inappropriate content, but also recognises that advertising that promotes lawful products and services should not be unduly restricted.”

The Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) director of policy and regulatory affairs, Megan McEwin similarly stated: “Australia has a robust system of television regulation which includes bans and restrictions on advertising in programs directed to Children (P and C programs).”

“In addition, the AANA has recently launched its new Food and Beverage Code which contains a 25% child threshold to determine whether an occasional food can be advertised. Importantly this applies to any medium (not just TV) at any time of the day, so we do not see any need to import a UK style ‘TV watershed’.”

Australia has an increasingly overweight population, with a survey from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ National Health Survey for 2017-18 showing that two thirds (67%) of Australian adults were overweight or obese (12.5 million people), which was an increase from 63.4% in 2014-15.

Compared to figures in the UK, where the ban has been applied, 63% of UK adults are overweight or obese, according to a survey by Cancer Research UK in 2018-19, which equates to an estimated 35 million people.

The minister’s spokesperson continued: “Commercial television broadcasters are subject to specific advertising restrictions that have been put in place for the protection of child viewers. This includes a prohibition on advertising during and adjacent to commercial television programs classified P (that is, made for pre-schoolers).”

“When considering its policy settings for television advertising restriction, the government engages regularly with individuals and organisations, and has regard to prevailing community expectations.”

McEwin also added that banning perceived junk foods alone would not solve this issue.

“All the research shows that increasing exercise, education campaigns on what is a good diet and exercise regime, giving families access to convenient affordable everyday foods are the keys to tackling this problem. Many of our members have introduced or support such programmes and provide helpful tips on how to eat well and lead a healthy lifestyle.”

While a ban has not been imposed by neighbours New Zealand, it is a public sentiment there that action needs to be taken in this department. A Consumer New Zealand survey this year found that two thirds of New Zealanders want tougher rules to protect kids from being targeted by junk food advertisers, with 92% of that figure wanting a ban on TV advertising for junk food and drinks during hours that children watch TV.


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