Kiwi kids bombarded with junk food ads - study

  • 10/10/2017
Hamburger and french fries for unhealthy lunch
Photo credit: Getty

Junk food ads are bombarding Kiwi kids, who are being exposed to twice as much marketing for unhealthy foods as healthy foods, new research has found.

The findings were based on a world first study of 168 Wellington children aged 11-13.

Researchers were able to track which ads the children saw during a four-day period by fitting them with GPS units and wearable cameras.

With so many junk food ads "littering" their lives, it highlighted the urgent need for the government to step in to restrict the advertising of unhealthy foods, University of Auckland Professor Cliona Ni Mhurchu says.

"The findings are a real concern given high rates of obesity amongst New Zealand children and the known influence of marketing on children's food choices," she said.

Another major concern was how the children were seeing the ads in public places, not just during their personal television viewing or internet browsing, fellow researcher from the University of Otago Associate Professor Louise Signal said.

This included seeing an average of seven unhealthy food ads at school and eight in public places, she said.

Such marketing was damaging because it encouraged the repeat purchase and consumption of unhealthy foods, she said.

She said the World Health Organisation's taskforce on ending childhood obesity had recommended schools and other meeting places for kids be free of marketing for unhealthy foods.

In New Zealand, the industry regulated its own marketing practices using a code of conduct, Associate Professor Signal said.

"[But] our research shows that this is clearly not working. It is time for government regulation of food marketing," she said.