Souce: University of Auckland, 20 February 2017
Government regulation is needed to reduce the advertising
industry's marketing of unhealthy foods to children and young
people, according to 77 of New Zealand's leading health
"The industry has largely ignored a submission from these 77
experts on its recent review of self-regulatory codes," says
Professor Boyd Swinburn from the University of Auckland.
The submission made last year on the Advertising Standards
Authority (ASA) review, proposed a revised single code, he
"The ASA pre-empted government by announcing a review ahead of
the government launching its child obesity plan, so the success of
the review for them is that it has bought another full government
term of inaction on the issue.
"The 77 professors submitted on the review, but very little
notice was taken of the submission from them, nor the submissions
from other health groups," says Professor Swinburn.
In a study published in the NZ Medical Journal today, Professor
Swinburn evaluated the proposed new ASA code against eight criteria
in the professors' submission for an effective code.
"The evaluation found that the proposed code largely represents
no change or uncertain change from the existing codes," says
Professor Swinburn. "It cannot be expected to provide substantial
protection for children and young people from the marketing of
unhealthy foods and there is no indication that independent
monitoring will be implemented to assess the code's effects.
"Government regulations will be needed to achieve this important
outcome," he says. "Reducing the exposure of children and young
people to the marketing of unhealthy foods is a core strategy for
reducing the high overweight and obesity prevalence in this
He says the code reflects problems endemic to self-regulation
where commercial interests conflict with public interests and it
falls far below international best practice.
"While the proposed code appears to be a small step in the right
direction, it does not provide adequate protection of children and
young people's interests.
"A further potentially serious downside is that the revised ASA
code will be given as a reason by the Government for not
implementing the regulations that would effectively reduce children
and young people's exposure to marketing of unhealthy foods," he
"The Review Panel has missed a major opportunity to introduce
meaningful changes that would help to reduce childhood
Professor Swinburn says government regulation is urgently needed
to create a policy framework which puts children's health and
well-being above commercial interests.
He says New Zealand has an unacceptably high prevalence of
childhood obesity and the Minister of Health, Dr Jonathan Coleman,
has made it one of his priorities to reduce this rate through the
government's childhood obesity plan.
"Achieving this goal will require a significant reduction in the
marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children and young
people," says Professor Swinburn.
The World Health Organisation Commission on Ending Childhood
Obesity, (co-chaired by the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor,
Professor Sir Peter Gluckman), had its report endorsed by all
member states, including New Zealand, at the World Health Assembly
in May last year.
That report also supported a strong regulatory approach to
reduce unhealthy food marketing to children.
Professor Swinburn says the ASA Review Panel received 91
submissions - including 52 from public health and nutrition
organisations that called for substantially strengthened codes, and
15 from the food and beverage industry sector, which largely
opposed stronger codes.
"Although there is no evidence that industry-controlled,
voluntary codes are effective in reducing marketing to children,
public health groups actively participated in the ASA review in the
hope of strong outcomes," says Professor Swinburn.
• Proposed new industry code on unhealthy food marketing to
children and young people: will it make a difference? by Boyd
Swinburn and Stefanie Vandevijvere on behalf of health professors.
Published in NZ Medical Journal on 17th February 2017.
• A list of the 77 health professionals who endorsed the ASA
submission is available on request.