Domino’s, Ben & Jerry’s and Grill’d have been caught out targeting children with sports vouchers that can be redeemed for free junk food.
The vouchers were featured on sports certificates given to children awarded ‘player of the day’ at local football competitions, and included messages like “for your a-moo-zing achievement go to Ben and Jerry’s Chatswood Scoop Shop to get a FREE scoop in a choc dipped cone”, and “because awesome efforts deserve awesome burgers.”
Cancer Council NSW’s Nutrition Manager, Clare Hughes said, “While we are relieved that the complaints we made as part of the Our Kids, Our Call campaign were upheld by Ad Standards, we know that there is a lot more still to be done to protect our children from unhealthy food marketing. The fact that these three companies are still flouting the industry codes that are meant to stop junk food companies from targeting kids shows that self-regulation does not work and is only the tip of the iceberg.
“Children’s exposure to high levels of unhealthy food marketing affects the food and drinks that they like, ask for, buy and consume. Sadly, these vouchers represent just some of the many tactics used by junk food advertisers to target children and influence their eating habits to increase intake. This has health effects including dental caries and the development of metabolic syndrome.”
A Cancer Council study has showed the unhealthy influence that junk food sponsors have on children. Nearly 70 per cent of children thought that the food and drink companies sponsoring their local sports club and favourite team were ‘cool’, furthermore, almost 60 per cent liked to return the favour to these sponsors by buying their products.”
Mother of two, Dr Hiba Jebeile, who is also a researcher on adolescent obesity added, “My kids are nine and 10 and very impressionable; every time they get these vouchers for junk food they ask if they can have it. Our soccer club still hands out McDonald’s vouchers despite the fact I have had complaints upheld for the last two years.
“Vouchers like these undermine our efforts as parents to teach our kids healthy habits through playing sport and eating healthily, and it makes me really upset because as a parent you feel guilty for having to constantly say no. Food is something that should be enjoyed and be a positive and social experience for children. It puts unnecessary pressure on parents to have kids asking for junk food, and this can take the enjoyment out of mealtimes.”
In light of this, Cancer Council NSW is calling on government regulation of food marketing. “As it stands, the complaint process relies on someone drawing matters like this to the attention of Ad Standards. Government regulation would ensure that these companies have to make a serious effort to ensure they don’t advertise to our children,” Ms Hughes continues.
“Children are already being surrounded by junk food marketing on public transport and online, and sports vouchers and sponsorship is yet another avenue that these companies exploit. This particular example, the promotion of food and drinks that are high in fat, sugar and/or salt, could undo some of the health benefits gained by children participating in sport and help to establish and reinforce unhealthy eating habits which last throughout life,” Ms Hughes concludes.
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