Source: SMH – Jill Stark.
A new code designed to protect children from online junk food advertising is a “sham” according to public health groups who say nine out of 10 complaints have been dismissed, and products such as Coco Pops and Paddle Pops are deemed ”healthy” under the system.
In January, the Australian Food and Grocery Council expanded its advertising code to include online marketing, pledging not to promote unhealthy food and drinks to children.
However, the Obesity Policy Coalition say the voluntary system’s failure to crack down on marketing for products high in fat and sugar through promotions clearly designed to appeal to children, proves the industry cannot be trusted to police itself.
Comprising the Cancer Council Victoria, Diabetes Australia, VicHealth and the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention at Deakin University, the organisation lodged 10 complaints for promotions they felt breached the code but all but one failed.
Executive officer Jane Martin branded the code ”window dressing”, with companies creating an illusion of responsible marketing while increasingly using online games, apps, competitions and social media to engage young people.
”There’s real concern around this targeting of children because they can interact with these games, they’re very seductive, it’s not clear that it’s marketing, and parents are often unaware it’s happening. We’ve been waiting a long time for new media to be explicitly covered by these codes and now they are we find out the system is really just as useless as with traditional media.”
Ms Martin said websites, games and apps were tools to increase brand recognition and encourage consumption.
One of the complaints about a KFC online game – which they argued appealed to young gamers and rewarded players with vouchers for chicken nuggets – was dismissed as not being primarily directed towards children.
Complaints are adjudicated by the Advertising Standards Board but must be assessed within the parameters of the industry’s code.
It states that companies can only advertise products that represent ”healthier dietary choices”, and promotions must also include messages around healthy diets and physical exercise…read more.