The NZ Herald asked for a response to a survey of 33 Wellington children aged 11 to 13 around marketing tactics such as catchy songs or slogans, free toys and competitions and highlighted the use of sports sponsorship in food marketing. When asked what they would do if they were ‘Prime Minister for a day’, many said they would take action to reduce junk food marketing, including removing billboards, providing nutritional information and promoting healthy food. The survey was published in the NZ Medical Journal.
Speaking to 33 kids can get some interesting opinions, but it’s not a sample to base policy on. It was interesting that the children had the nutrition knowledge to understand the difference between healthful and treat foods. That indicates that nutrition education does get through.
Some children talked about making advertising “true” and the provision of nutrition information. We don’t expect them to be aware but, by law, advertising in New Zealand must be truthful and accurate otherwise bodies like the Commerce Commission or Advertising Standards Authority will step in. Nutrition information plus ingredients and other information will be found on packs. There are strict rules about advertising to children which are set out in the ASA Code. Our member companies either have policies in place where they don’t advertise to children at all or they adhere to the strict ASA Code.
The factoid that children see 27 unhealthy food advertisements a day is often repeated, but it’s exaggerated and misleading. Academics counted seeing food wrappers and packaging in school lunchboxes, and biscuit tins in home cupboards as advertising, which inflated the numbers. They’re also counting New World and Countdown grocery price advertising as unhealthy, which most reasonable people can understand are not ads targeting children.