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NZ: New Zealand lags behind in controlling junk food marketing to children

A review of food marketing to young children in New Zealand and overseas found that we are lagging behind other OECD countries.  There is little control over the advertising of unhealthy food to young children in New Zealand,  says Otago university research fellow Dr Caroline Shaw.  We rely on voluntary self-regulation by the food and advertising industries.   Other countries have much tougher regulations:  Sweden, Norway and the province of Quebec have banned the advertising of unhealthy food to children altogether.

“What we have here is a relatively toothless system of self-regulation through the Advertising Standards Authority, a voluntary advertising industry body. This is fundamentally useless in terms of protecting the health of children. It’s not aimed at benefiting public health; it’s simply designed to control those few advertisers who may breach acceptable standards.”

The review also describes moves by the previous government to have a food rating system for ads during children’s viewing times.  However, most children watch TV outside these times.

Dr Shaw says there are straight-forward solutions to the marketing of unhealthy food to children.

  • A clear Government vision which is independent from the advertising and food industry.
  • More regulation or co-regulation to implement this vision regarding unhealthy food advertising aimed at children.
  • Independent monitoring of all forms of food marketing to measure success of policy interventions.
  • Initiating controls over cross border marketing through international treaties.

Read the abstract of the review: New Zealand Medical Journal, 23 Jan 2009

Read more: Press release, University of Otago/Scoop, 24 Feb 2009

Published on February 24, 2009 in New Zealand news