Ethics- Junk Food Advertising for Children

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What are the facts?
Child obesity is a growing problem in Australia, with an estimated 2/3 of children considered overweight, 1/3 of which are considered obese. Coincidently, Australia not only has the most overweight children, it also has the highest proportion of junk food advertising on commercial television (Chapman et. al, 2006; Morton, 1990; Morton et. al., 2005). In the period between 1985 and 1997 the number of overweight children doubled, and the number of obese young Australian’s tripled (Booth et. al, 2003; Chapman et. al, 2006). Overweight children are 78% more likely to develop adult obesity and are particularly prone to health problems such as Type 2 diabetes, stoke, cardio vascular disease, and other health disorders and diseases (Hill et. al, 1997). Several recent studies have aimed to determine exactly how much junk food advertising is on commercial television, and studies have attempted to prove the link between the growing number of overweight children and the increase in junk food advertising on commercial television. The NSW Cancer Council of Australia conducted a thorough research into the proportion of junk food advertising, analysing over 760 hours of commercial television over a range of children’s timeslots and classified them according to Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (Children's Health Development Foundation and Deakin University, 1998). In this particular study, of the 10,983 advertisements analysed 31% were for food products, and 81% of food advertisements for unhealthy (high sugar, fat and salt content with little nutritional value) which equates to 25% of total advertising for unhealthy foods. Of the high proportion of advertising for unhealthy foods on Australian television, a time slots with the most advertisements per hour of food such as take away fast foods, frozen desserts, chip and crisps, high sugar content drinks such as cordials and soft drinks, and confectionary were shown during peak times for children watching television. The highest proportion on weekdays was during “family” television time between 6pm and 9pm, followed secondly during hours of children’s content between 3pm and 6pm. On weekends, the highest occurrence of junk food advertising occurred on Saturday mornings during children’s cartoon hours. The following table graphically depicts the findings of the study and compares the different time slots analysed.

Fig 1: No. of unhealthy advertisements per hour in different time slots (Chapman et. al. 2006)
The study concludes that there is certainly a focus for junk food advertising during time slots where children are most likely to be watching. The study also concluded that only 19% of food advertising and 6% of total advertising was aimed at promoting healthy/core food consumption and positive lifestyles. Another independent study has discovered that junk food advertising increased substantially during school holiday periods. The Australian Division of General Practice has determined that a child watching 2.5 hours of television a day is exposed to 406 junk food advertisements over the period of the summer school holidays, suggesting that junk food advertising is dramatically increased during the periods when children will be known to be watching more television. It appears that in Australia, junk food advertising is aimed at children due to the increase in advertisements during children’s peak hours, and the even further increase in the number of advertisements during school holiday periods. Further to this, marketing techniques including using pop culture figures such as ‘Shrek’ (who was used to promote over 30 unhealthy food products in 2007) to entice children, and competitions and free toys if you purchase junk food products to further attract children suggests that the Australian food industry is targeting children as the main consumer of their products. Who are the stakeholders?

There are many players in the issue which make it...
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