‘Sham’ junk-food marketing codes failing Aussie kids, says OPC

The Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) has slammed the food industry for its “failure to protect children from exposure to junk-food marketing”.

This is despite the introduction of self-regulated codes in 2009 that promised such protections.

Released on Tuesday, the OPC’s ‘Overbranded, Underprotected’ report exposes what it calls the “systemic failures of the food and advertising industries’ self-regulated codes”.

It also calls on the government to stop allowing the industry to set its own rules.

OPC Executive Manager Jane Martin says leaving children’s health in the hands of the industry is irresponsible. She also points out that 27 per cent of Australian children are above a healthy weight.

“It’s naïve to entrust our children’s health to the same companies that are actively encouraging them to consume junk foods,” she said. “The end goal of the food industry will always be to make more profit.

“We know marketing directly affects what children eat, what they want to eat, and what they pester their carers for.”

‘Overbranded, Underprotected’ offers an analysis of the food and advertising industries’ self-regulated codes. These codes claim to protect children from unhealthy food marketing. But the report found children aren’t protected from junk-food marketing in many circumstances, including:

  • Sport sponsorship (eg, McDonald’s sponsorship of Little Athletics).
  • Packaging, including popular cartoon characters and animations (eg, Minions, Coco-Pops monkey, or Disney-branded foods).
  • In-store promotions.
  • Free toys and other giveaways (including Happy Meals and Kinder Surprise).
  • Competitions.

There was no reduction of unhealthy-food marketing to children on TV between 2011 and 2015. Moreover, some of this marketing came from the companies that signed up to the codes.

“The food industry claims to be compliant – even successful – in adhering to these codes, but the bar is set so low that self-proclaimed success means little,” Ms Martin said. “The industry is effectively setting its own homework, then giving itself top marks.

“We have had these sham rules for long enough to know they are not working. It’s time for government to step in and support families and communities to raise healthy children, free from the negative influence of junk-food marketing.”


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