INDEPENDENT NEWS

Reducing Rising Obesity - Restrict Ads To Kids

Published: Fri 15 Jun 2001 10:03 AM
Restricting Ads To Kids First Step In Reducing Rising Obesity Levels
New rules to control the content and amount of food advertising on television, especially during children's television programmes, are needed to target the rising levels of obesity in New Zealand, Green Party MP Sue Kedgley said today.
This would be much easier and probably more effective than a new tax on high sugar, high fat food as is being proposed by the Agencies for Nutrition Action, in response to their concern that more than 1000 New Zealanders die each year from obesity.
"If we want to encourage children to eat healthy diets, we need to control the amount of advertising of unhealthy, low-nutrient junk foods on New Zealand television, Ms Kedgley said.
"We need to restrict advertising of high fat, high sugar foods during children's usual viewing hours or, as a bare minimum, permit advertising for foods of low nutritional value only in exchange for free broadcasting of nutrition promotion messages and for foods which meet New Zealand's nutritional guidelines.
"Alternatively, we could follow the lead of countries like Sweden and Norway which do not allow any advertisements during children's television programmes."
Ms Kedgley said international research shows that children's food choices are strongly influenced by what they see on television. "Research also shows that continual advertising of high fat, sugar and low fibre foods during the usual hours of children's viewing reinforces patterns of poor nutrition among children and adolescents that may continue into adulthood."
A 1999 report on food advertisements shown during peak children's viewing time in New Zealand found that 63 per cent were for unhealthy, highly processed, high fat, high sugar foods that increased children's risk of obesity, dental cavities, diabetes and other diseases and 14 per cent of these ads were for fast foods.
It found that if children ate the foods promoted during children's television viewing hours, they would increase their risk of obesity and dental cavities in childhood, and cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancers in adulthood.
"New Zealand children watch more than two hours of television every day, and a large proportion of the more than 20 minutes advertisements they will see during this time are for low-nutrient junk foods. This means our children are being constantly exposed to a food universe on television which consists of snacks, sweets, soft drinks and fast food. The message they will get from watching these advertisements is that these low-nutrient junk foods are good for them," said Ms Kedgley.
"Clearly, if we want to encourage our children to eat healthy diets, some controls will have to be imposed."
Ends

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