Proposal for junk food ad ban takes shape
Foods advertised during the ad breaks of the nation's three most popular programs for children aged five to 12 years last year - Junior MasterChef, The Simpsons and Modern Family. Photo: Rebecca Hallas
JUNK food advertising would be banned during popular shows for children such as Junior MasterChef, advertisers would be stopped from using free toys to promote fast food and school chocolate fund-raising drives would be phased out under a proposal to combat obesity.
Advertisers' self-regulatory codes aimed at reducing children's junk-food marketing are not working, health groups claim. They argue that the federal government should adopt tougher measures restricting unhealthy food advertising, which campaigners believe is a major factor in rising childhood obesity rates.
The Obesity Policy Coalition has developed a national blueprint, to be released today, to regulate this form of advertising. The proposal has taken years to draft and is the first comprehensive report to be endorsed by so many health groups, including the Australian Medical Association, the Australian Dental Association, Cancer Council Australia, Diabetes Australia and the National Heart Foundation.
Under the plan, junk food advertising would be banned on free-to-air TV from 6pm to 9am and 4pm to 9pm on weekdays. On weekend mornings, when children tend to watch more television, it would be banned from 6am to noon. On pay TV channels, similar time restrictions would apply except for channels primarily directed at children, such as cartoon channels, in which case junk food advertising would be banned at all times.
The proposal also suggests the restriction of unhealthy food advertising on websites aimed at children and through email, SMS, magazines, G and PG-rated movies for children, sponsorship of children's sports in and outside of schools and unhealthy fund-raising drives used for schools and children's sports. The blueprint also suggests stopping advertisers from using toys and competitions as promotions for fast-food meals, such as McDonald's Happy Meal toys.
The Obesity Policy Coalition report has been sent to Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon.
A spokesman for Ms Roxon said the Government had invested $325 million for the Healthy Children initiative to increase physical activity and improve nutrition in schools and pre-schools.
He said the Government would continue to monitor regulations and voluntary codes to ensure their effectiveness in reducing children’s exposure to advertising of energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods and beverages.
‘‘This is consistent with the National Preventative Health Taskforce recommendations, which propose a staged and potentially escalating approach to change, allowing for voluntary measures to be trialled with action to follow if necessary,’’ he said.
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