Many parents are unhappy with the way unhealthy food is advertised. Parents Voice wants to give parents an opportunity to tell advertisers what they think about the way foods are advertised to children and the kind of advertisements children see.
Are you happy with having unhealthy food and drinks advertised when your children are likely to be watching TV? Or do you think bans or restrictions on them would be good? Although some TV channels restrict junk food advertising during children’s programmes, they don’t have restrictions in the early evenings – the time when the largest numbers of children watch.
Junk food marketers also reach children by using endorsements by celebrities and characters, collectable toys, cards and competitions, text messages and emails, online games, or school sponsorships.
Are you happy with these marketing tactics?
The only way this kind of marketing can be stopped is by changing the laws about advertising. The only way the government will change the law is if parents, grandparents and other concerned people make a big enough fuss about it and demand change.
Food and beverage marketing to children is governed by Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) rules. This body is funded by the advertising and media industries with no control or monitoring by government. ASA has a series of codes that all advertisements are supposed to comply with, but they are voluntary and there are no penalties for companies that don’t comply with them.
The Children’s Code for Advertising Food has rules about advertisements for food and drink that influence children. It was updated in 2010.
The code includes guidelines which say advertisements should not encourage children to;
The current rules for managing food and drink marketing in New Zealand don’t adequately protect children’s health. The voluntary ASA rules only work if someone makes a complaint – and if the Advertising Standards Complaints Board agrees the complaint is valid.
Past experience shows the complaints process tends to favour advertisers rather children.
This kind of industry self-regulation hasn’t worked with other public health issues such as tobacco control either. This is because codes are administered by the industry - and industry always protects it own interests. Only stronger measures - including government regulation - and independent measurers will make a difference.
The Children’s Code for Advertising Food sets out the rules about advertisements for food and drink that influence children. Making a complaint about an advertisement is complicated because you need to refer to the code and the principles and guidelines in it and specifically how you believe it fails to meet the standards set out in it..
If you think an advertisement breaches this code, you can make a complaint to the Advertising Standards Complaints Board.
The Advertising Standards Complaints Board has instructions on how to make a complaint.
Consumer NZ has information on how to make a complaint.
There are a number of points you need to include in your letter to ensure your case is clear:
Read a real life case study (PDF 210KB) of a complaint to the ASA on how two school girls took on big business and won! (NZ Herald, 27 March 2007)
E-mail us firstname.lastname@example.org with a copy of any complaints or letters you send, and the replies so we can understand what issues concern you.
There are many ways you can help reduce children’s exposure to junk food advertising:
Join Parents Voice and take part in forums, vote in polls and tell us your concerns.
Write a letter about unhealthy food and beverage marketing to:
And remember to:
Always follow the 4Ps rule. Be:
Download the 2006 Agencies for Nutrition Action report, Does Watching TV Contribute to Increased Body Weight and Obesity in Children? for more information on the link between TV viewing and body weight.
On average New Zealand children watch 2 hours of television a day. 1
Approximately three out of four TV food and drink advertisements in New Zealand are for foods counter to healthy eating. Children are a key target audience for food and drink manufacturers. 2
These advertisements use attention grabbing persuasive promotional techniques such as endorsements by characters and celebrities, promotional offers, appealing colours, pictures and jingles, and claims that misrepresent the true nutritional value of the food or drink. 3
Children under eight years old do not have the critical literacy skills to recognise the persuasive intention of advertising.3
Current regulations place restrictions on advertising certain types of foods during peak viewing periods for children. However analysis shows three of the four most popular children’s programmes do not fall within these periods. 4
Advertising influences children's food preferences which undermines parents' efforts to provide their children with a healthy diet.3
The balance of ads for healthy and unhealthy food groups is well out of proportion to healthy eating guidelines. This ‘advertised diet’ also causes obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and certain cancers. 5
Around one in three New Zealand children is either overweight or obese.
Overweight and obese children have a high risk (80 per cent) of becoming an overweight or obese adult. Social isolation, poor self-esteem and depression are linked to weight problems. Their chances of developing diabetes, some types of cancer and heart disease are significantly increased. 3
Visit the Fight the Obesity Epidemic website for more information on the impact of junk food advertising to children.
These websites have information about regulating food marketing to children.
Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)
ASA is an industry organisation designed to self-regulate advertising in New Zealand. They develop voluntary Advertising Codes of Practice which all media can choose to comply with or not.
Advertising Standards Complaints Board (ASCB)
The committee of the ASA which makes judgements on complaints received against the ASA Codes of Practice. Many of its members belong to industry groups.
The Children's Code for Advertising Food
ASA says the Code aims to ensure all advertisements for food and beverages adhere to a high standard of social responsibility, do not mislead or deceive children and promote foods in such a way so as to undermine a healthy diet.
Advertising on Television - Getting it Right for Children
A New Zealand Television Broadcasters Council voluntary code which places restricts on the advertising of certain foods in children's programming times on TV2, TVNZ7 and MediaWorksTV4.
The Consumer Guarantees Act 1993
An Act of Parliament, which requires suppliers to only market goods and services which are fit for the purpose for which they are intended. Part 1, Section 8, 1b is of most significance to the issue of food and beverage marketing to children.
The Fair Trading Act 1986
An Act of Parliament, prohibits misleading or deceptive conduct generally (section 9), conduct that is liable to mislead over "the nature, manufacturing process, characteristics and suitability for a purpose" of goods (section 10) and false or misleading representations as to the quality, composition, style or nature of products (section 13).
2. Does Watching TV Contribute to Increased Body Weight and Obesity in Children. Agencies for Nutrition Action Scientific Committee. 2006
4. White J. Freedom of choice and the Public Health Bill. July 2008. P 14.
5. Wilson N, Quigley R, Mansoor O. Food ads on TV: a health hazard for children? Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. 1999; 23 (6): 647-50 5