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Comments have recently closed on the South African Department of Health Draft Regulations on labelling and advertising of foods (R429). The comprehensive guidelines cover food labelling as well as prohibiting the marketing of unhealthy foodstuffs to children under 18. This includes a ban on TV and radio between 6am and 9pm, advertising on product packaging and the use of cartoon characters and celebrities that might appeal to children. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), an association representing the digital industry in South Africa was among those that made submissions to the consultation on the draft . A spokesperson for the IAB said the Regulations were unduly onerous and flawed and suggested the Bureau was open to working to find viable alternatives under self- or co-regulation. The IAB also highlighted the difficulties with addressing online marketing. Self-regulation has been shown to be ineffective in many countries including Australia.

The South African Department of Health included regulations on the marketing of unhealthy foods to children in the Labelling Regulations as part of addressing the need to tackle the crisis in childhood obesity.


A complaint to the Advertising Standards Board (ASB) about an ad for Wendy’s, the ice cream chain, has been dismissed because the chain has not signed up to the Quick Service Restaurant Initiative (QSRI) to protect children from unhealthy food marketing. As well, the Australian Association of National Advertisers’ (AANA) Children’s Code and Food Code are both poorly worded to require that to be considered under the children’s clauses ads must be “primarily directed to children”. The Board ruled that this ad was not directed only to children. The ad appeared in the preschooler’s program Dora the Explorer and featured cartoon characters and food depicted in child friendly scenes – a llama with a hotdog stuck in its neck; a milkshake straw acting as a periscope and a horse with an ice cream cone on its head pretending to be a unicorn. The ad finished with the voiceover “Wendy’s yum”. The Board ruled that the ad was no more compelling to a child than to an adult and so dismissed the complaint against both the AANA Children’s Code and the Food Code.

If Wendy’s had signed the QSRI it would have agreed to only advertise ‘healthier choices’ in children’s programming, however only 7 fast food chains have signed up to this initiative.

The Board warned advertisers to carefully consider the content and placement of ads given there seems to be a change in community standards. This is backed up by the complainant’s words “when a clearly junk food ad for Wendy’s came on I was quite upset. I thought Australia had regulation for exactly this reason”. As the Board has shown, Australia does not have regulation to prevent this happening and some in the community don’t know that is the case. ASB Case number 0257/14