The fig­ures aren’t good

The Southland Times - - COMMENT&OPINION -

Could we men­tally con­jure up some sooth­ing back­ground vi­o­lin mu­sic as we con­sider the fol­low­ing state­ment?

‘‘Food ad­ver­tise­ments should not un­der­mine food or nu­tri­tional poli­cies of Govern­ment, the Min­istry of Health, food and nu­tri­tion guide­lines, nor the health and well be­ing of chil­dren.’’

Such is the purring of the New and Im­proved code for ad­ver­tis­ing for chil­dren, agreed by our sel­f­reg­u­lat­ing ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try.

So that’s nice. Es­pe­cially since as things stand (al­beit wob­bly) we’re the third fattest of 33 OECD coun­tries, with­obe­sity cost­ing our health sys­tem about $600 mil­lion a year.

And track­ing to­wards hav­ing al­most one third of our un­der-18 year-olds classed as obese or over­weight by 2025.

Hang on, say the voices of per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity. This is bad but let’s not lazily blame the sell­ers of le­gal prod­ucts for ex­er­cis­ing their le­git­i­mate com­mer­cial free­doms. Es­pe­cially since the prob­lem is clearly one of poor par­ent­ing.

Granted, there is such a thing. But there’s also a mas­sively re­sourced in­dus­try out there mak­ing it re­ally hard for par­ents, par­tic­u­larly those on lower in­comes.

The very prod­ucts that nu­tri­tional watch­dogs would most want us to re­gard as ‘‘some­times’’ food are the ones that seem to be ad­ver­tised ‘‘all the damned time’’ and ‘‘ev­ery­where you turn’’. And they are so of­ten so cheap.

The lat­est re­search sug­gests that some of our kids are en­coun­ter­ing 27 junk food ad­ver­tise­ments a day. Crit­ics are re­proach­fully point­ing out that the re­searchers counted prod­uct pack­ag­ing as ad­ver­tis­ing.

The dis­tinc­tion between see­ing a dis­tinc­tive Coke la­bel on a screen or a sign, and see­ing it on the re­al­life prod­uct it­self, is likely to be lost on the near­est on­look­ing kid, sum­mon­ing up a han­ker­ing in any case.

Some ex­am­ples can be put for­ward of less-un­healthy al­ter­na­tives be­ing pushed a lit­tle harder into the mix, it’s true.

Pres­sure mounts on our Govern­ment to tax sug­ary prod­ucts puni­tively, reg­u­late mar­ket­ing more closely and - al­ways pre­ferred - im­prove pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion.

But here’s the thing. Ad­ver­tis­ing of suf­fi­cient quan­tity, skill and sly­ness can sub­vert a great deal of ed­uca­tive in­tent. In Bri­tain it’s been re­ported that junk food com­pa­nies are spend­ing 27 times more on ad­ver­tis­ing than the Govern­ment does pro­mot­ing healthy eat­ing.

We can look at signs of progress, like the star rat­ing sys­tem, and take some en­cour­age­ment. But the na­tional health stats are alarm­ing. We’re los­ing the sugar wars. Badly.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.