New Zealand children are aware that food advertising entices them to buy unhealthy food, according to a small survey of Wellington children aged 11 to 13, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal.

The kids identified a number of marketing tactics like catchy songs or slogans, free toys and competitions and highlighted the use of sports sponsorship in food marketing. When asked what they would do if they were ‘Prime Minister for a day’, many said they would take action to reduce junk food marketing, including removing billboards, providing nutritional information and promoting healthy food.

The researchers say these findings suggest children’s exposure to junk food marketing may cause them physical, mental and moral harm, in direct contradiction of the New Zealand self-regulatory code for marketing. The children’s views align with the World Health Assembly’s recent decision to endorse initiatives to end childhood obesity, including restricting marketing of unhealthy foods.

University of Otago deputy head of Department of Medicine professor Rachael Taylor, who specialises in child obesity, said New Zealand should also consider adopting a ban on junk food advertising as it would have a wide-reaching impact.

“This is a 100 per cent population reach approach, it’s the most cost effective thing to help combat obesity,” says Taylor.

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