Aotearoa New Zealand is failing to protect children from unhealthy food marketing on many levels when measured up against new World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines according to public health researchers.
WHO released a new set of guidelines this month which recommend the implementation of policies to restrict marketing of foods high in saturated fatty acids, trans-fatty acids, free sugars and/or salt to children.
University of Auckland researcher, Dr Victoria Egli says WHO states restricting marketing should be mandatory and protect children of all ages and NZ does neither of these things.
In the latest Public Health Communication Centre Briefing - NZ falling behind on international rules to protect kids from food marketing - Ms Egli and colleagues match up NZ’s policies against WHO guidelines and UN Convention of the Rights of the Child and say we come up short on both.
“Only voluntary industry-led policies and bylaws exist in relation to marketing junk food/drink to children in NZ. These policies don’t cover all children (only those aged under 13 years), are ineffective, ambiguously worded, poorly enforced and rarely upheld,” says Dr Egli.
She says food marketing shapes eating norms and pervasive exposure to marketing increases the risk of children developing a variety of ill health conditions. “It is also inequitable. Evidence is clear that children living in less well-off neighbourhoods are exposed to twice as much marketing than their peers.”
The Government needs to develop and implement mandatory policies to restrict unhealthy food and drink marketing to children of all ages. “By allowing food and drink companies to target children in their classrooms, on their screens and in the neighbourhoods where they live play and learn, NZ is failing in its commitments to protect children’s rights.”
“We need to stop linking unhealthy foods and drinks with hedonic pleasure and rewards in the form of plastic toys and special deals,” says Dr Egli. “The Government needs to develop and implement mandatory policies to restrict unhealthy food and drink marketing to children of all ages.”