A new Cancer Council NSW study reveals many well-known food companies can continue to promote unhealthy products to children because their slack nutrition standards mean their sugary cereals and confectionary are considered healthier foods.
Analysis revealed that Kellogg’s Coco Pops, Arnott’s Tiny Teddies and Nestle Smarties can all be promoted to children according to the companies’ own health standards, which are set up as part of voluntary advertising codes.
We looked at what the big food companies use to determine what is healthy enough to be advertised to children under the current voluntary advertising initiatives, the Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative and the Quick Service Restaurant Initiative. We compared it to more robust and scientifically approved nutrition criteria developed by the food regulator, Food Standards Australia New Zealand, and used to prevent companies making certain advertising and marketing claims on foods that are unhealthy.
Cancer Council NSW, Nutrition Program Manager Clare Hughes said “Our results showed that food companies such as Kellogg’s, Campbell Arnotts and Nestle have set their own criteria so low that foods high in sugar and saturated fat can still be advertised to children”.
“We also found loopholes in the fast food code. Currently it only covers advertising of children’s meals, but our study found foods like KFC’s Mint Choc Krusher, Hungry Jack’s Brekky Meal and McDonald’s Chicken N’ Cheese Burger which aren’t children’s meals can still be advertised to children.
As well, there are no criteria for such foods as Cadbury Freddo frogs or Mars Milky Way because both companies say they do not advertise chocolates to children.
Our results reaffirm that the current self-regulatory codes do not work. There is no effective criteria underpinning these codes to ensure only healthy foods can be promoted to children.”
What we want:
We found more ads for unhealthy foods by companies that had signed the voluntary initiatives. This suggests the voluntary initiatives may be just ‘smoke and mirrors’ when it comes to protecting children.
Introducing the Food Standards Australian New Zealand (FSANZ) criteria would be an effective way to ensure sugar-laden and high saturated fat foods aren’t directly targeted to children. In the absence of government regulation we challenge the food industry to adopt this criterion in their voluntary initiatives to create a level playing field for all food companies and help Australian parents to raise healthier children.