Protecting children against unhealthy food marketing – FGC media response

28 September 2015

FGC has responded to a Viewpoint article in the NZ Medical Journal by Stefanie Vandevijvere and Boyd Swinburn entitled ‘Getting serious about protecting New Zealand children against unhealthy food marketing’.

The authors claimed that the marketing of unhealthy food products to children is “powerful, pervasive, and predatory”, and said previous studies found that food marketing targeted at children through various media is “predominantly for unhealthy food products”.This claim was substantiated by citing academic work published 5-15 years ago – well before the introduction of stringent industry rules regarding advertising food. The whole opinion piece creates a misleading impression of the current New Zealand marketing environment.

In a response published in the journal last week, Katherine Rich says advertising in all media is subject to oversight by the Advertising Standards Authority, and that all major publishers and broadcasters require advertise­ments to show evidence of assessment for compliance with the Children’s Code for Advertising Food 2010, the Code for Advertising Food, and the Code for Advertising to Children, and will publish only in line with these Codes.

“There have been 9 complaints about adver­tising food to children in the past 5 years, representing around 0.2% of complaints received over that period … None were upheld,” she says.

“What is disappointing is that voluntary agreements, such as those signed by major soft drinks companies not to sell into schools, are being circumvented by ‘third parties’ and the schools them­selves for continuing to accept soft drinks for sale. Support from Government for healthy eating programmes in schools, and greater promotion of the Heart Founda­tion’s Fuelled4Life programme, would be welcomed by industry.

“Overall, this Viewpoint creates the false impression that self-regulation has failed. In our view, self-regulation is very effective and increasingly so in terms of driving measures, such as limited food advertising to children, reformulating foods and conveying the healthfulness of foods to consumers.”

The Vandevijvere-Swinburn article is available only to subscribers to the NZMJ website, but you can read the summary on the NZMJ website here

Read FGC’s full response here