Medical Association calls for digital ban on junk food ads

AMA calls for digital ban on junk food ads

“Allowing the processed food and advertising industries to set their own rules does not effectively protect children.”

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) is calling for an online marketing ban on junk food via a submission to the Department of Health and Aged Care, intensifying the conversation around the ad industry’s impact on children.

The submission calls for restrictions on all junk food marketing across media platforms and outlets between 5:30am and 11pm, further urging the government to implement tight restrictions on unhealthy food sponsorship of sports, arts, and cultural events.

It also strongly opposes the advertising industry maintaining a status quo of self-regulation on the issue via such organisations as the The Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA).

“Allowing the processed food and advertising industries to set their own rules does not effectively protect children from exposure to unhealthy food marketing,” said AMA president, Professor Steve Robson.

“We need to restrict placement and promotion of unhealthy food within retail environments, and we want a policy to extend beyond traditional media and include parts of our daily lives where children are influenced.”

In 2022, The Obesity Policy Coalition claimed the advertising industry’s code was failing to protect kids from unhealthy food marketing. The appeal came after an Oreo cookies ad that was shown during the Lego Masters finale was found not to target children despite appearing in one of Australia’s most popular general entertainment shows for children.

The Ad Standards Community Panel dismissed the complaint by the Obesity Policy Coalition at the time, which claimed the Oreo ad had breached the newly established AANA Food and Beverages Code, mandating ads for occasional (unhealthy) food and beverages must not target children under 15 years.

See also: Obesity Policy Coalition says new advertising code fails to protect children

In a press release, the peak industry body for doctors in Australia stated it was calling upon the Australian Government to put the health of children “ahead of the profits of harmful industries by urging for tougher laws on unhealthy food and drink advertising.”

“Limiting junk food advertisements and marketing is about nurturing health in our children, providing them with the opportunity to make healthy choices well into adulthood,” said Robson, adding that eating habits are formed young – when children are most susceptible to unhealthy food marketing efforts.

“Junk food marketing at the sports field, in the shops, on TV, or online gives the wrong message by making unhealthy food feel completely normal.” 

Last year, the AMA also championed Dr Sophie Scamps MP as she introduced The Healthy Kids Advertising Bill 2023 to Parliament, a proposition to ban junk food ads from TV and radio between the hours of 6:00am and 9:30pm. The Bill further proposed an outright ban on junk food marketing on social media and other online environments.

See also: Josh Faulks: Industry needs to work with government and consumers to overcome greenwashing

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