Major companies changing the way they market to kids

New voluntary industry codes will see companies such as Nestle, Mars, Campbell Arnott’s, Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s, McDonald’s and Hungry Jack’s cease promoting sugary and fatty foods during television programs attracting an audience made up of at least 35 per cent children.  This is an improvement on the previous benchmark which applied to programs with 50 per cent of children in the audience.

The Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative (RCMI) and the Australian Quick Service Restaurant Industry Initiative for Responsible Advertising and Marketing to Children (QSR initiative), are aimed in part at moderating children’s exposure to advertisements for non-core food.

An independent review, conducted by Susannah Tymms, a researcher specializing in regulatory reform, found that the majority of signatory companies participating in these voluntary codes are going beyond the requirements.

The CEO of the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) which manages the initiatives, Mr Gary Dawson, welcomed the findings as evidence that self regulation has achieved industry action to focus marketing communications to children on the goal of promoting healthy dietary choices and lifestyles.

However, critics claim that these industry codes are not as successful as the AFGC claims.  “It does not go far enough to reduce exposure because it won’t actually pick up programs that are watched by the greatest number of children overall,” Obesity Policy Coalition executive manager Jane Martin said.  Many of the most popular programs on television which are watched by adults also attract a large audience of children.  However, these will still not get picked up by the new AFGC codes.

While it is encouraging to see self regulation moving the industry in a responsible direction, there is still room for improvement. It remains to be seen if measures such as these will have sufficient effect on childhood health problems.