A leading childhood obesity expert is calling on federal, state and local governments to take steps to restrict the marketing of unhealthy food and drinks to children.
Louise Baur, Professor of the Discipline of Paediatrics & Child Health at the University of Sydney and Consultant Paediatrician at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, says that parents are struggling to be heard over the bombardment of marketing aimed at their children.
“Every week, in my weight management clinics at the hospital, I see parents who are trying their very hardest to look after the health of their kids” says Professor Baur.
“By now, everyone has heard the alarming childhood obesity statistics. Parents are much better informed about healthy eating, and are trying to teach their children good nutritional habits. But how can they compete with slick, multi-million dollar marketing campaigns?”
Professor Baur dismisses suggestions that advertising doesn’t play a significant role in the diets of children.
“Advertising does influence what kids want and therefore what parents buy – of course it does. Companies wouldn’t spend millions on it if it didn’t!”
Professor Baur points not only to television advertising, but to a range of marketing strategies from sponsorship of kids’ sporting events to “endorsements” of products by popular cartoon characters. She says that all levels of government have a role to play in supporting parents by introducing measures to restrict these marketing practices – and she isn’t alone.
The World Federation of Consumer Organisations, Consumers International, has this week released a new International Code on Marketing of Food and non-Alcoholic Beverages to Children, which is supported by the International Obesity Taskforce. The Code calls for new government regulations to protect children and parents from the pressures of junk food marketing practices.
“This isn’t about being the “fun police”, banning chocolate or soft drinks, or outlawing all forms of advertising,” Professor Baur said.
“All we are asking is for some balance. Limiting the marketing of unhealthy food and drinks will give parents a better chance to teach their kids about responsible, healthy eating. We want to give children back to their parents. And that’s going to lead to happier families and healthier kids.”