Advertisements for high fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) foods aimed at children now only make up a very small portion of all food and beverage advertisements on children’s television in Australia, according to new research released today (19 January).

The study by the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) found just 2.4% of all HFSS food and beverage adverts on children’s TV between March to May 2010 targeted children aged under the age of 12, according to data sourced from Commercial Monitors, an Australian advertising information service.

The data analysis covered free-to-air television (including digital TV) from five major capital cities Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. Overall, 92 days were included in the detailed analysis (24 hours each day).

AFGC chief executive Kate Carnell said the compelling statistics highlighted the success of industry’s Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative (RCMI), where 17 leading food manufacturers have committed not to advertise to children under 12, unless they promoted healthy dietary choices and a healthy lifestyle.

“The new advertising figures resoundingly dispel the myth that Australian children are being bombarded with adverts for HFSS foods on TV, which is clearly not the case,” Carnell said.

“Under the RCMI, there has been a continuous improvement process by Australia’s $102bn food and grocery manufacturing industry which has included reformulation and product innovations.”

The commercial monitors data showed:

· Of the 410 food and beverage advertisements, 160 (39%) were in children’s programs – 21% (33) for HFSS foods
· Only ten out of 33 adverts for HFSS foods targeted children, representing
2.4% of all food and beverage advertisements.

“The RCMI has proved successful however there are still a handful of companies who aren’t signatories to the code and AFGC is working hard to encourage them to sign-up,” Carnell said.

In October 2010, the Productivity Commission’s report Childhood Obesity: An Economic Perspective said: “Evidence suggests that the link between television viewing and childhood obesity is small in magnitude – it’s difficult to discern a relationship between advertising and body weight. That said, there is community concern about advertising that is aimed at children so industry has acted and produced encouraging outcomes.”

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