Cancer Council recently held a seminar featuring UK researcher in appetite and obesity Dr Emma Boyland. Dr Boyland showed examples of how our food environment makes it easy to choose and consume unhealthy foods and advertising reinforces preferences and demands for unhealthy foods.
There has been regulation of advertising to children in UK for many years and while this has meant there has been a decrease in food ads on children’s channels, there has been an increase in food ads in sports, family and music channels where the regulation doesn’t cover. Interestingly the researchers found an increase in depictions of physical activity across all channel types between 2008 and 2010, with the highest increase found on children’s channels. Is this because food advertisers are deliberately trying to offset junk food consumption with physical activity? There was also an increase in links to websites, especially on children’s channels, allowing opportunity for further marketing via advergames and social networking.
Regulation of advertising to children on television as has been in place in the UK for 8 years would be a positive first step in Australia, although we could improve our regulation by learning from the UK experience of some of the loopholes.