Jenny Norman has had enough of her kids being force-fed junk food ads while watching television or playing on their iPads.
That’s why the lead author of a “world-first” University of Wollongong study is leading calls for tougher regulations of food marketing to children.
On average, the daily food intake of children in the study increased by almost 50 calories after watching food advertising; an amount that over time would lead them to becoming overweight.
Ms Norman, a PhD student at UOW’s Early Start and School of Health and Society, said action was needed to stop children from continually being exposed to high levels of junk food advertising.
“This [study] is all about creating supportive environments for parents so they can bring their children up to be as healthy as they can,” she said.
On the one hand you have the food industry spending millions of dollars a year creating really clever, enticing adverts and as parents we are all trying to do our best but I guess those efforts get steamrolled by what’s being promoted.Jenny Norman
“The Cancer Council are actually running a campaign at the moment called Our Kids, Our Call where parents can join the campaign and be a collective voice for their children.
“There has also been a lot of media this last week with Jamie Oliver promoting the We’ve #AdEnough of junk food marketing campaign in England.
“I think globally there is a strong call for increased regulation. Parents have had enough of their children being exposed to lots of unhealthy food advertising.”
Parents, she said, were also sick of the uneven playing field.
“On the one hand you have the food industry spending millions of dollars a year creating really clever, enticing adverts and as parents we are all trying to do our best but I guess those efforts get steamrolled by what’s being promoted,” Ms Norman said.
“We do know that food advertising creates social norms around what's acceptable to eat and it effects children's attitudes, preferences and so forth.
“As a parent, I’ve had enough. I think we’ve all had enough.”
Ms Norman recognises policing online advertising would be challenging, but felt the Australian government could follow the lead of the UK and introduce “some internet regulations”.
“The online space is currently very unregulated and we are really calling for the government to look into that and on TV also, especially between 7-9pm,” she said.
“It’s during that family viewing time, like when you got The Voice on, as well as other popular shows, that children continue to be exposed to high levels of junk food advertising.”
Ms Norman added that while previous studies have shown that food advertising increases children’s immediate food consumption, the latest UOW research was the first to show that this could lead to calorie imbalance.
The study involved 160 children between the ages of seven and 12, and took place over six days at a school holiday camp.
The study is published in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity.