The non-government organization, Cancer Council NSW, in conjunction with the Obesity Coalition Australia and the Parent's Jury, has submitted a proposal for a ban on promotional characters, tie-ins with movies and athletes promoting foods high in fat, sugar, and salt (HFSS).
In particular, the organisation has singled out the use of such marketing techniques on foods such as Bubble O'Bill ice creams, citing the fact that this brands has a quarter of a child's recommended daily saturated fat intake in one 65 gram serving.
Also on the health bodies’ list of offenders is the Kellogg's Foot Loops brand, which the NGO notes has almost three teaspoons of sugar per 30 gram serving; and Coco Pops, which uses Coco the Monkey to promote the cereal, contains almost a third of a child's daily sodium intake.
However, the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) described the call for a ban on licensed characters on food products as unnecessary, stating that food companies have already stopped using characters in advertising HFSS foods.
Under a statement, AFGC chief executive Kate Carnell said, under the Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative (RCMI): “Industry has removed licensed characters from advertising of HFSS food products to children in a range of different media such as TV, radio, online and in school canteens.”
RCMI involves the majority leading food manufacturers who have committed not to advertise HFSS foods to children under 12, unless they promoted healthy dietary choices and a healthy lifestyle.
Carnell also points out that licensed characters such as Coco the Monkey have been around for decades in Australia, while the obesity epidemic only started in the country in the 1980s.
According to the AFGC chief executive, the RCMI has been effective in reducing the number of adverts targeted at children in relation to HFSS foods.
She cites independent research the AFGC had commissioned, which showed that only 2.4 per cent of adverts on children’s TV were for HFSS foods from March 2010 to May 2010. Such adverts, adds the Council, were primarily placed in error by advertising agencies.
The AFGC also reports that similar bans on advertising these foods to children in Sweden and in Canada have been unsuccessful in combating obesity. For example, in Quebec after the ban was implemented, obesity tripled among boys and doubled for girls, the statement said.