Kids swamped with junk food ads: study
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.