Protecting children from unhealthy food marketing 

 

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We want all Australian children to be able to live, learn and play in a world that supports their health and wellbeing. Instead, our children cannot escape the processed food industry’s unhealthy food marketing - it is everywhere, acting as wallpaper in their lives.

Unhealthy food marketing influences the foods that children prefer, the foods they choose and the foods they eat. Children should be able to grow up free from the harmful influences of unhealthy food marketing. We need government regulation to effectively protect children from the processed food industry’s unhealthy food marketing.

Our campaign

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Brands off our kids!

Australia must put our children’s health above the processed food industry’s profits.

The time to act is now.

Sign up now

Latest

child holding mobile phone

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

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

Privacy Act Review Report Submission

The Privacy Act has an important role to play in protecting children online. Food for Health Alliance strongly supports a strengthened Privacy Act to better protect children from harmful data practices, including the collection, use and disclosure of their information to market harmful industries such as unhealthy food, alcohol and gambling. Read more
Submission
soft drink soda cans

Obesity prevention and related public health advertising versus competing commercial advertising expenditure in Australia

The aim of this study was to compare advertising expenditure on public health campaigns for obesity prevention (and related healthy eating and physical activity campaigns) with competing commercial categories. Read more
Research

FAQs 

Does unhealthy food marketing influence children?

Yes. Advertising works – and the processed food industry knows this. That’s why they spend millions every year on marketing to reach Australian children in all areas of their lives, building brand awareness and normalising unhealthy food. There is strong evidence that unhealthy food marketing influences the foods that children prefer, choose and eat. For more information, see the Obesity Evidence Hub page on the Impact of food marketing on children.

How much unhealthy food marketing do children see?

Australian children cannot escape unhealthy food marketing– it is everywhere, acting as wallpaper in their lives. They are exposed to significant amounts of unhealthy food marketing as part of their daily lives – as they travel to school and within their community, when they go to the shops or to sporting events, when they watch TV with their families and when they go online to learn, to access information, and to communicate with friends and family. For information about how much unhealthy food marketing children see in different areas of their lives, including on TV and online, see the Obesity Evidence Hub page on the Impact of food marketing on children.

What kinds of unhealthy food marketing do children see?

Processed food companies have become increasingly sophisticated in the way they target and reach children with unhealthy food marketing.

Common tactics include:

  • Paying for advertising during TV shows that are popular with children

  • Putting cartoons on unhealthy food packaging

  • Giving away free toys with unhealthy meals

  • Running competitions with prizes that children want

  • Sponsoring children’s sport, to associate their unhealthy food with healthy activities

  • Soft drink billboards on public transport

  • Fast food advertising at sporting events, including professional football and cricket games

  • Designing branded games and apps for young children

  • Paying influencers popular with children to promote unhealthy products on social media

  • Designing their own content on social media that children can engage with and share with friends

  • Running ad campaigns on social media that appear when children are online

  • For more information, see the Obesity Evidence Hub page Promotional channels and techniques: unhealthy food  

Are there regulations to protect Australian children from unhealthy food marketing?

There is no Australian Government regulation specifically designed to protect children from unhealthy food marketing. Instead, the advertising industry has developed its own limited code about unhealthy food marketing to children. Evidence from around the world shows that self-regulatory codes are not effective in protecting children from unhealthy food marketing.  

For more detail on the limited regulation in Australia that applies to unhealthy food marketing and the evidence on the impact of self-regulation, see the Obesity Evidence Hub page on Australia's lack of regulation of unhealthy food marketing to children.

What can we do to protect children from unhealthy food marketing?

We want to see government regulation to protect children from unhealthy food marketing. There are four actions we want governments to take, set out in our Brands off our kids campaign.  

These are:  

  1. Ensure television, radio and cinema are free from unhealthy food marketing from 6am to 9.30pm  

  2. Prevent processed food companies from targeting children  

  3. Ensure that public spaces and events are free from unhealthy food marketing   

  4. Protect children from digital marketing of unhealthy food  

Head to our campaign page to join our campaign and read our full Brands off our kids! report with more detail about these actions.  

Who else recommends and supports action to protect children from unhealthy food marketing?

Protecting children from unhealthy food marketing is strongly supported by the Australian public, by public health organisations and is now reflected in key national strategies. It is also recommended by key international organisations.

  • 7 out of 10 Australian adults agree that government should take action to protect children from unhealthy food marketing.

  • More than 35 organisations and 200 individuals support our Brands off our kids! campaign calling for government to take four actions to protect Australian children from unhealthy food marketing – join us!  

  • Both the National Obesity Strategy and the National Preventive Health Strategy include strategies or policy achievements around reducing children’s exposure to unhealthy food marketing.   

  • The World Health Organization supports action to protect children from unhealthy food marketing in its Set of Recommendations on the Marketing of Foods and Non-alcoholic Beverages to Children.

Do other countries protect children from unhealthy food marketing?

Yes, Australia is falling behind international best practice on protecting children from unhealthy food marketing.  

For example, Chile does not permit unhealthy food marketing on television between 6am and 10pm and also restricts some types of marketing that appeal to children, including using cartoons or licensed characters on product packaging.  

Recently the United Kingdom Government has committed to stopping unhealthy food and drink advertising on television between 5.30am and 9pm and to stopping paid unhealthy food and drink advertising on the internet. This is planned to be implemented in 2025.  

Many countries have implemented restrictions on unhealthy food marketing, and these vary in their scope and application.  

For more information about policies to reduce children’s exposure to unhealthy food marketing, including the case study of Chile, see the Obesity Evidence Hub

Learn more

Protecting children from unhealthy food marketing 

Learn about protecting children from the processed food industry’s unhealthy food marketing.

Improving baby and toddler foods

Learn about improving the composition, labelling and promotion of ready-made foods for babies and toddlers to support good health.

Improving food labelling

Labelling of packaged foods should provide accurate information that enables consumers to make choices in line with dietary guidelines. Learn about our work to improve food labelling.

Pricing measures for healthier diets

Pricing measures can promote healthier diets through encouraging reformulation by industry and by influencing the purchase and consumption of food and drinks.

National & international strategies

Learn about the frameworks and strategies that play an important role in changing the food environment to better support healthier diets.