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The world is watching Chile

Andrea Western, Senior Policy Advisor, LiveLighter WA


While World Health Organisation recommendations about reduction of children’s exposure to unhealthy food advertising date back to 2010 , Chile is one of the few nations to have taken comprehensive statutory action to address the issue. In June 2016, Chile became a world leader in anti-obesity regulation, enacting laws that address three key areas – front of pack labelling, advertising to children and sale of unhealthy foods in children’s settings.
Article 5 of the new Chilean law requires that all foods high in saturated fat, salt, sugar and/or calories feature a stop-sign warning label (one for each applicable nutrient). This definition of ‘unhealthy foods’ is then applied to the regulation of advertising, with Articles 6, 7 and 8 prohibiting advertising and promotion of stop-sign labelled foods to children.
Comparison with Australia’s complex web of voluntary and self-regulatory schemes highlights the robust, innovative and comprehensive nature of Chile’s laws.

The Chilean ban applies to any form of marketing, communication, recommendation, propaganda, information or action intended to promote the consumption of a product. The law also encompasses practices that take advantage of children’s natural credulity, such as use of gifts, contests, toys, games and stickers, and there have been suggestions that it applies to the use of cartoons, characters or animals on product packaging. Importantly, the law extends to advertising that does not relate to a product, such as brand advertising and sponsorship.
Australia’s codes and initiatives vary widely in their application to different types of media however there are currently no provisions that address product packaging or the toys that come free with fast food meals. Australian brand promotion and sponsorship of children’s sport is also largely unregulated, as Australia’s instruments apply only where there is depiction of an actual food product.

Directed to Children
In Chile, an advertisement is considered directed to children where 20% or more of the audience are children under the age of 14. Other factors taken into consideration include use of animated characters, children’s voices, cartoons, toys, children’s music, animals, child figures and depictions of situations common to a child’s daily life, such as school.
An advertisement is ‘directed primarily to children’ in Australia where children represent 35% or more of the audience. Other factors to be considered are the advertisement’s visuals, themes and language. The Advertising Standards Board’s (ASB) approach to assessing this test is also problematic. Advertisements that include cartoons, animations or emojis are often considered by the ASB to appeal to adult’s whimsical feel of nostalgia for childhood.

Definition of ‘unhealthy’ food
As noted above, Chile’s use of the warning signs provides much needed clarity as to the ‘unhealthy’ products that cannot be advertised to children. In Australia, this test has proven to be problematic, in that the initiatives enable food companies to generate their own definition of ‘healthier.’ This has resulted in the Board accepting foods such as Coco Pops a ‘healthier dietary choice.’

Sale of unhealthy foods in children’s settings
Article 6 of the Chilean law includes a ban on the sale of stop-sign labelled foods in all school canteens. This aspect of the law is aimed at improving the food supply and guiding students towards healthier (and more traditional) eating patterns.
The use of the stop signs both in the supermarket and to classify the foods that can be sold in schools and advertised to children provides consumers with a consistent message from the Chilean government as to the harms of such products.

The Chilean law also has significant potential in terms of product reformulation. It appears that McDonalds Chile has modified its children’s meals to evade warning label cut-offs, enabling continued marketing using toys.

What Australia can learn
It is clear that the Chilean government has demonstrated some serious political courage in legislating to address unhealthy food advertising to children. Moving forward, Chile’s world leading regulations will hopefully provide much needed evidence concerning the effectiveness of these initiatives, which will assist countries like Australia to engage in law reform.

For a full list of references contact us.


The annual Parents’ Voice Fame and Shame awards was held on Monday in Sydney highlighting the best and worst offenders in food marketing to children as voted for by parents. A total of 5 awards were handed out with three in the ‘Shame’ category to companies that use sly techniques to market their unhealthy products to children, and two in the ‘Fame’ category highlighting campaigns that promote healthy food and encourage children to be more active.

This year Coca-Cola Australia received three nominations in the ‘Shame’ categories and was the winner of two Shame Awards Foul Sports and Pester Power. The Award for Foul Sports was for the use of the NBA Star and Olympian, Andrew Bogut in their Powerade marketing campaign as it was viewed as appealing to children and deceptive by linking the consumption of Powerade Ion4 drink with becoming an Olympic Athlete. The Pester Power Award was for Coca-Cola’s television commercial ‘Brotherly Love’, although Coca-Cola say they do not directly market to children, the ad features a boy and his older brother who drinks Coke and ultimately protects him from bullies which may appeal to real-life struggles of young adolescents and younger ones looking up to them. The other ‘Shame’ category saw Milo taking out the Digital Ninja Shame Award for their use of branded app to appeal to children and link consumption of milo with being physically active.

Despite the imbalance in the amount of junk food marketing compared to promotion of healthy foods it is still important to congratulate organisations that produce campaigns targeted at children to improve and promote healthy eating and physical activity. This year the Fame Award, voted for by parents as the best campaign for Healthy Eating went to Woolworths with Jamie Oliver promoting Free Fruit for Kids within their supermarkets. In addition a new Fame Award category was added to commend marketing promotions encouraging physical activity aimed at children. The winner of this category was the Australian Government’s Girls Make Your Move campaign which targets young girls as research has shown activity levels in girls dramatically drop as they get older. More of these campaigns are needed to help curb the growing childhood obesity epidemic currently sweeping Australia.

For a full list of nominees visit Parents’ Voice