Advertising to children initiatives have not reduced unhealthy food advertising on Australian television

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Abstract

Background

In response to rising childhood obesity rates, the Australian food industry implemented two initiatives in 2009 to reduce the marketing of unhealthy food to children. This study evaluated the efficacy of these initiatives on the rate of unhealthy food advertising to children on Australian television.

Methods

The rates of food advertisements on three free-to-air commercial television channels and a youth-oriented digital channel in Sydney, Australia were analysed over 2 weekdays (16 h) and two weekend days (22 h). Advertisements were categorized according to the healthiness of foods advertised (non-core, core, miscellaneous) and signatory status to the food industry advertising initiatives.

Results

Total food advertising rates for the three channels increased from 5.5/h in 2011 to 7.3/h in 2015, due to an increase of 0.8/h for both core and miscellaneous foods. The rate of non-core food advertisements in 2015 (3.1/h) was similar to 2011 (3.0/h). The youth-oriented channel had fewer total food advertisements (3.7/h versus 7.3/h) but similar fast-food advertisement rates (1.3/h versus 1.3/h).

Conclusions

There was no change in the rate of unhealthy food advertising since 2011, suggesting minimal impact of the current food industry initiatives on reducing children's exposure to unhealthy food advertising.

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