AMA President, Dr Rosanna Capolingua, said today that Australia should join an international movement to ban junk food advertising in children's television viewing times.
Dr Capolingua said the ban would be an important step in a broader national strategy to combat obesity in Australian children and adolescents.
'The primary focus of our obesity strategy has to be on helping our young people get a healthy and active start in life,' Dr Capolingua said.
'As parents and a community we have to protect them from messages and images that tempt them to an unhealthy diet and lifestyle.
'The marketing and promotion of food that is energy-dense and nutrient poor should be prohibited, and banning junk food ads on TV would be a good start.
'A ban would have to extend to promotion of junk food through other media such as the Internet, food packaging, and product placement in movies.
'Junk food promotion is also saturating popular sports like cricket and the various football codes, so governments should take strong action to ban this as well.
'The AMA supports the international push to ban junk food marketing to children but we should not be waiting for others to act - Australia has to be a world leader in addressing obesity in our young people.'
The AMA urges the Government to:
• seek a commitment from the food and retail industry to develop new ways to present and market healthy, low processed, nutritious foods,
• help parents make informed choices in what they buy for their children by mandating a simple and uniform 'front of pack' system of nutritional labelling for packaged food, such as the 'traffic-light' system, which indicates the level of fat, sugar and salt in food by using red, amber and green colour codes, and
• implement an ongoing public education campaign to support the labelling system.
Almost a quarter of Australian children and adolescents are overweight, with approximately one in four of these being obese.
The proportion of obese adults doubled over the fifteen years between 1989-90 and 2004-05 (ABS 2008, Overweight and Obesity in Adults, Australia, 2004-05).
Obesity contributes to shortened life expectancy, and impaired quality of life.
There is evidence that obesity and excess weight in childhood and adolescence is a strong predictor of obesity or health problems in adulthood. To allow children to become obese is to shorten their lives.
Obesity costs the Australian community an estimated $21 billion in 2005 (Access Economics, 2006, The economic costs of obesity,
Report for Diabetes Australia, October 2006).
Food marketing to children is typically for highly processed, energy dense and nutrient poor products.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says there is considerable evidence that food marketing affects children's consumption and diet-related behaviour (WHO, 2006. The extent, nature and effects of fast-food promotion to children: a review of the evidence,
WHO Technical paper. 2006).
Research shows thatconsumers make choices on the basis of nutritional information, and prefer 'at a glance' information.
Evidence suggests that labelling formats such as the 'traffic light' system can influence consumers' choices toward more healthy products (Gerda, I. J., et. al. 2008, 'Front of pack nutrition labelling: testing effectiveness of different nutrition labelling formats front-of-pack in four European countries', Apetite
, Vol. 50, pp. 57-70.)