The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has called on the federal government to implement tighter regulations on fast food advertising, after a code put forth by the industry to voluntarily reduce the number of advertisements aimed at children has failed; the AMA claims.
The fast food industry had agreed to curb the number of ads targeted towards children in an agreement reached in 2009. The industry implemented a new marketing code for advertising targeted to the under 14 age group, but studies have shown they have failed at self-regulation. Seven fast food chains voluntarily agreed to adhere to the code including fast food giants McDonalds, Pizza Hut and KFC.
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Sydney and the Cancer Council NSW, was based on an analysis of all TV ads broadcast in Sydney over four days before (May 2009) and after (April 2010) the voluntary code was introduced. The study found the total number of fast-food ads had increased, with no change in the junk food ads.
AMA president Geoffrey Dobb believes ads for junk food should be banned to help reduce the problem of childhood obesity in Australia.
"Greater government regulation of fast food advertising is needed to cover the failure of industry self-regulation," Professor Dobb said.
The greatest concern of the AMA is that childhood obesity is a growing and worrying trend in Australia, and appealing ads targeted at children by the fast food industry have the desired affect.
"Childhood obesity is a major health problem in the community and glossy advertising, especially in peak children's television viewing times, is a major contributor to unhealthy junk-food choices. Food companies continue to use this form of advertising because they know it works,” says Professor Dobb.
The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) disagrees with the AMA and claims that they are happy with the progress since the agreement. In their own findings in a 2010 review, they see that only 'a very small proportion’ of junk food advertisements are targeted specifically towards children and they will continue to keep a track of such ads.
This ‘small proportion’ mentioned by the AFCG does not take into account that the overall percentage of junk food advertised to the TV-watching public may be considered excessive and not in the best interests of the population as a whole.