Kids swamped with junk food ads: study

The Hutt News - - FRONT PAGE - RACHEL THOMAS

Some Kiwi kids are be­ing bom­barded with an av­er­age of 27 junk food ad­ver­tise­ments a day in their schools, homes and on the streets, re­search has found.

In a world-first study by Otago and Auck­land uni­ver­si­ties, 168 chil­dren from the Welling­ton re­gion, aged be­tween 11 and 13, wore cam­eras around their necks for four days, cap­tur­ing what they saw ev­ery seven sec­onds.

In one case, a poster for Co­caCola hung on a class­room wall. In oth­ers, mar­ket­ing for sug­ary or en­ergy drinks on the sides of dairies or on the ends of buses pop­u­lated their jour­ney home.

Uni­ver­sity of Otago As­so­ci­ate Pro­fes­sor of Pub­lic Health Louise Sig­nal, who led the re­search team, said the sat­u­ra­tion of this sort of ad­ver­tis­ing was nor­mal­is­ing the con­sump­tion of junk food.

‘‘The con­se­quence of that is obe­sity,’’ she said. ‘‘[Kids] are twice as likely to see junk food mar­ket­ing as healthy mar­ket­ing, it goes against that ef­fort to help chil­dren main­tain their weight.’’

The re­search, ti­tled Kids’ Cam, sought to un­der­stand what life was like through a child’s eyes.

The chil­dren came from 16 ran­domly se­lected schools across var­i­ous deciles in Welling­ton, Porirua and the Hutt Val­ley.

The re­sults showed they were ex­posed to an av­er­age of seven un­healthy food ads at school and eight in pub­lic places each day.

Ad­ver­tis­ing seen on tele­vi­sion and in dairies and su­per­mar­kets was ex­cluded from the study be­cause there was sim­ply too much of it to count, Sig­nal said.

Uni­ver­sity of Auck­land Pro­fes­sor Cliona Ni Mhurchu, the re­search team’s pro­gramme di­rec­tor, said the find­ings were a con­cern given the high rates of obe­sity among Kiwi chil­dren, and the known in­flu­ence of mar­ket­ing on chil­dren’s food choices.

Min­istry of Health statis­tics show 11 per cent of New Zealand chil­dren aged be­tween 2 and 14 are obese, and a fur­ther 22 per cent are over­weight.

Sug­ary drinks, fast food, con­fec­tionary and snack food ad­ver­tise­ments were the most com­mon found in the study. Prod­uct pack­ag­ing was the dom­i­nant plat­form, fol­lowed by signs.

The re­searchers want the in­com­ing Gov­ern­ment to im­pose a sug­ary drinks tax, reg­u­late junk food mar­ket­ing and im­pose rules that would see only healthy foods sold in schools.

The project re­ceived $5 mil­lion in fund­ing from the Health Re­search Coun­cil.

Pack­ag­ing ac­counted for the great­est amount of ex­po­sure to ad­ver­tis­ing of sug­ary and snack foods.

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