Poll on food advertising to children flawed

20 July 2015

A poll that found 73 per cent of adult participants favoured stronger restrictions to reduce the amount of unhealthy food and drink advertising and promotion to children used questions that created the false impression there is a lot of advertising directed at children, says FGC Chief Executive Katherine Rich.

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 questioned adult New Zealanders (18 years plus) on whether Government actions were needed to restrict the marketing of unhealthy food to children.

Mrs Rich questioned the methodology of the poll.

“If it's like other Horizon surveys, it's not a random sample but an opt-in poll for people who have a particular interest in a given topic.

"The questions are extremely leading, creating the impression there is a lot of advertising directed at children, when this is simply not the case. It's a classic push-poll designed to get a certain answer."

She said many people who answered the survey may not be aware of the codes and policies that already exist.

"Food companies already adhere to these strict rules. These include food advertising rules that are overseen by the Advertising Standards Authority. They are stringent and clear codes and I’m not sure where they could be strengthened.

“The Children’s Code for Advertising Food says food advertising should not undermine the wellbeing of children or government nutrition policy, and they shouldn’t encourage over-consumption of any food, particularly treat food, snacks, or fast food. 

“In addition to that, most of our member companies have clearly-stated public policies that they will not place advertising where children are the main audience. Our members view the codes as important and the right thing to do. 

“The amount of advertising to children on TV has decreased dramatically since 1999 when one of the key studies looking at food advertising during children’s programming was done. There is now no advertising during pre-school and limited advertising during other children’s programming times.

“So, while there while there may be a perception for some that there is regular advertising targeted at children, this is not the case at all.

“New Zealand's self-regulatory model for advertising works well, and I cannot think of any food campaigns in recent times that have been aimed at children.”

Find the Auckland University press release on the poll here.