Investigation finds inherent conflict of
interest in self-regulation
the Obesity Policy Coalition, a coalition of leading health bodies, has
released one of the most comprehensive investigations into Australia's
self-regulatory system for food marketing ever undertaken.
Martin, Executive Manager of the OPC, said the detailed analysis illustrated
how the advertising codes that claim to protect children from junk food
advertising had resolutely failed. Further, the report highlighted the litany
of loopholes being used by the processed food industry to continue to promote
their products despite childhood obesity sitting at record levels.
have rigorously interrogated the current system and found it has failed in
three key ways.
codes themselves are seriously flawed, administration and enforcement of the codes
are inadequate, and finally despite the food industry introducing more codes
two years ago, there is no evidence any of these have reduced children's
exposure to unhealthy food advertising," Ms Martin said.
investigation also found there were major inconsistencies in the way decisions
were made by the various review agencies such as the Advertising Standards
Board and there was an inherent conflict of interest in self-regulation which
worked against the existence of effective codes.
findings are detailed in a report, ‘Exposing the Charade', which has been sent
to state and federal health ministers.
report concludes there is a need for a fundamental shift in the way unhealthy
food advertising is regulated in Australia.
food industry has been given ample opportunity. The government must now call
‘time' on the charade of self-regulation and legislate to give children
meaningful protection from the influence of unhealthy food marketing.
to comprehensively restrict junk food marketing and advertising would be one of
the most effective and cost-effective interventions to address the childhood
overweight and obesity crisis. It would also support other strategies to
improve children's diets, nutrition and health such as physical activity and
nutrition programs in schools," said Ms Martin.
Key findings from the
1. The codes are seriously flawed:
- they are extremely complex
- do not apply to all food advertisers
- only cover advertising content that is ‘directed primarily to children'
they don't prevent advertising for unhealthy foods that appeal to children and
- definitions of media are so narrow they don't prevent unhealthy food
advertising during TV programs watched by the greatest number of children.
- many forms of promotion and media are not covered
- not all age groups of children are covered
- the criteria for deciding what is healthy/ unhealthy is unclear.
2. The administration and enforcement of
the codes are grossly inadequate:
- the scheme relies entirely on complaints from the public
- the Advertising Standards Board's (ASB) decisions are inconsistent with Australian
Communications and Media Authority's positions on brand promotion and
- The ASB fails to consider key claims
- The ASB's decisions are inconsistent with prevailing community standards.
3. The codes have not reduced children's
exposure to unhealthy food advertising:
- there is an inherent conflict of interest in self-regulation which
clearly works against effective codes
- there are no meaningful sanctions for breaches
- there is no independent monitoring or any evidence that self-regulation
has reduced children's exposure to unhealthy food advertising.
For a copy of the report, which includes
many examples of advertising and marketing to children, contact Rebecca Cook on
0438 316 435
About the Obesity Policy Coalition
Obesity Policy Coalition is a group of leading public health agencies who are
concerned about the escalating levels of overweight and obesity, particularly
The Obesity Policy Coalition partners include Diabetes
Australia - Vic, Cancer
Council Victoria, Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth)
and the World