Children's TV heavy with junk food
27 April 2007
In the first Australian study of its kind, University of Sydney researchers have found two-thirds of food advertisements during children's high-rating television programs promote junk food.
The study is the first to compare advertising patterns during the top-rating TV programs for 5- to 12-year-olds and 13- to 17-year-olds with advertising patterns during adult viewing times.
Led by research dietician Bridget Kelly, at the Australian Centre for Health Promotion, the study found that although total food advertising quantities fell between 2002 and 2006, there was a higher concentration of high-fat, high-sugar food adverts during popular children's television programs.
These foods made up 65.9 per cent of food adverts - 63 out of 96 per week - during the top 20 programs for 5- to 12-year-olds compared with just 39 per cent of ads shown during adult viewing periods.
The authors conclude that this is too high given that children should ideally get no more than 14 per cent of their energy from such foods. In popular programs for children aged 13-17, high-fat, high-sugar foods made up 66.8 per cent of food advertisements.
"These analyses clearly showed that the programs most popular with children and young people have significantly higher proportion of total food and high fat/high sugar food advertisements when compared with other viewing times."
High-fat, high-sugar foods are likely to be contributing to excess energy intake, overweight and obesity among Australian children, and the authors argue Australia should act to reduce children's exposure to such advertisements.
Advertising for core foods, especially fruit and vegetables, has increased since 2002, although they still only account for a small proportion of overall food ads.
The authors say Australia is lagging behind international moves to restrict food advertising to children which, according to CHOICE polling, is supported by more than four in five Australians.
The study will be published in an upcoming edition of the international journal Public Health Nutrition and is currently available online.
Contact: Kath Kenny
Phone: 02 9351 2261 or 0434 606 100