Marketing Unhealthy Food gets the Thumbs Down

F_R_AU15_UnhealthyFoodA Horizon Poll finds 73% of New Zealand adults      support government action on restricting unhealthy food marketing to children.

The Horizon Research poll of 1620 New Zealanders’ attitudes to junk food marketing restrictions was commissioned by the University of Auckland’s School of Population Health, and funded by the Heart Foundation and Cancer Society Auckland. It questioned adult New Zealanders (18 years plus) on whether Government actions were needed to restrict the marketing of unhealthy food to children.

The four main questions around marketing to children were: 

  1. Would you be in favour or against the Government introducing stronger restrictions to reduce the amount of unhealthy food and drink advertising and promotion to children? A total of 73 percent were in favour of government restrictions with 41 percent strongly in favour and 32 percent somewhat in favour of restrictions.
  2. Do you think the government should not regulate, should restrict, or should stop …using advertising on TV to market unhealthy foods and drinks to children? A total of 80 percent of respondents agreed action was needed with 46 percent supporting restrictions and 34 per cent saying the government should stop this practice.
  3. Do you think the government should not regulate, should restrict or should stop … featuring unhealthy food and drink brands in games and competitions on websites aimed at children? A total of 81 percent agreed action was needed with 43 percent saying stop this practice and 38 percent supporting restrictions.
  4. Do you think the government should not regulate, should restrict or should stop … sponsoring children’s sporting activities? A total of 67 percent of respondents agreed action was needed with 42 percent supporting restrictions and 25 percent saying stop this practice.

“Clearly the public are very supportive of the government taking a much stronger lead in protecting children and supporting parents by restricting unhealthy food marketing that targets children,” says Professor Boyd Swinburn from the University of Auckland’s School of Population Health. “Parents don’t like saying no to their children when unhealthy foods are advertised. The pester power that the marketing to children creates really undermines parents’ efforts to give their children a healthy diet.”

 At present, there are no government restrictions on marketing to children, only a variety of industry codes which are self-regulated which has proved ineffectual. New Zealand has the third highest rate of childhood obesity among wealthy countries and many health and consumer groups are calling for strong government action on marketing to children.

 The cost of obesity in New Zealand amounts to an estimated $1 billion per year for healthcare and lost productivity caused by obesity related illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.