Strong support to stop harmful food and drink marketing targeting kids: new data

12 Feb 2024

Most Australians want action to protect children from unhealthy food and sugary drink marketing on TV, online and social media, new data reveals.  

This support comes as public consultation opens as part of the Australian Government’s feasibility study into options to limit unhealthy food marketing to children. Open to the public until March 15, it will explore policy options to limit this marketing, including associated costs and benefits, feasibility, acceptability, impact on priority populations and monitoring and evaluation implications.   

Cancer Council Victoria’s 2022 Shape of Australiai survey of over 2300 Australians aged 18 to 65 years found:  

  • Just over 7 in 10 (72%) are in favour of government taking action to stop unhealthy food and sugary drink marketing on TV during children’s viewing times.  

  • Just over 7 in 10 (71%) are in favour of government action to shield children from exposure to unhealthy online marketing 

  • 7 in 10 (70%) believe it should be prohibited on social media for all children under 18. 

Food for Health Alliance Executive Manager, Jane Martin said children should be free to learn, socialise and be entertained, without being bombarded by ads for harmful products. 

“Children should be able to enjoy TV shows or go online to study, play games or connect with friends without the processed food industry targeting them and saturating their screens with ads for unhealthy food,” Ms Martin said. 

“Each junk food ad for a burger, sugary drink or unhealthy meal deal undermines what kids know and understand about a nutritious diet, powerfully shaping what they ask for, want and prefer.”  

There is strong evidence that this harmful product marketing impacts children’s diets, putting them at higher risk of overweight and obesity, which increases their risk of serious chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and 13 types of cancer in adulthood.  

According to the National Obesity Strategy, more than $500 million is spend annually by food companies on advertising food and non-alcoholic drinks in Australia, with the majority for products high in sugar, salt and fat.  

Ms. Martin noted 90% of Australian children aged 5 to 14 engage in recreational screen-based activities weekly, with 40% of them spending between 10-19 hours using screens, while 24% spend over 20 hours.ii 

Advertisers strategically focus on children, knowing how and where to connect with them. Australian children aged 5 to 8 years are exposed to at least 827 unhealthy food advertisements on TV each year, while Australian teens see up to 100 online junk food promotions each week.iii 

“Screens are an integral part of kids’ daily lives and often the preferred way to access information or entertainment. Concerningly, this significant screen time provides ample opportunity for the food industry to flood devices with unhealthy foods ads sneakily targeting kids in ways that parents are unaware of,” Ms Martin said.  

“The processed food industry will always prioritise their profits over our children’s health. But with over 9 in 10 children not eating enough fruit and vegetables to maintain good health, we need the Australian Government to step up to protect kids from this avalanche of harmful junk food advertising.” 

Ms Martin welcomed the public consultation as an important step towards implementing positive measures to improve children’s health. 

“We fully support government taking comprehensive action to ensure children are protected from harmful junk food marketing in all areas of their lives. This is backed by high levels of community support for action to stop the processed food industry preying on Australian children.”   

Visit and sign up to Brands off our kids! to show your concern about unhealthy food marketing. 

Visit the online consultation hub through the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care to participate in the public consultation, which closes 15 March.