Overbranded, underprotected

How industry self-regulation is failing to protect our children from unhealthy food marketing
Public health Obesity Overweight children Food industry and trade Marketing Junk food Australia

As Australian children go about their daily lives, they are exposed to a huge amount of unhealthy food marketing. Food companies and fast food chains bombard kids with unhealthy food on television, on the street, at the shops, while watching and playing sport, online, and sometimes even at school.

More than a quarter of Australian children are overweight or obese: that’s more than a million children with an unhealthy weight. This serious public health issue comes with significant consequences for individual children, their families and our community.

Substantial evidence tells us marketing influences children’s food preferences and consumption, contributing to overweight and obesity.

The Australian Government allows the food and advertising industries to set their own rules for marketing unhealthy food to children. This is done through a complex system of self-regulatory codes. In practice, this self-regulation does not protect children from unhealthy food marketing. This is not surprising: the food industry’s ultimate goal of increasing profits by selling more food products is in clear conflict with the public health goal of improving diets and encouraging people to avoid unhealthy food.

But with an obesity crisis on our hands, which is slated to cost the Australian health system billions, the government cannot afford to continue to leave regulation of unhealthy food marketing in the hands of industry. The issue of our children’s future health is too important.

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