A ban on junk food advertising? How is that going to work then?


Pies at New World Warkworth

Health groups are calling for a ban on junk food advertising and sports sponsorship in a bid to mimic the success of the ban on tobacco ads.

Several groups have made the call in submissions to the Advertising Standards Authority, which is reviewing its code for advertising to children.

Health groups said although big sports events such as rugby or league games might not be solely targeted at children, they were family affairs and children would be influenced by marketing.

They said such selling was one of the many ways children were bombarded by junk food messages.

Medical Association chair Stephen Child said even though such marketing is now common, sport would survive without it.

He said it was hard to believe a major cricket event was once sponsored by a cigarette company.

“Now, no one would think about tobacco companies sponsoring sporting events, it’s just become unheard of.

“The world hasn’t fallen apart; we still have cricket games, we still have sponsorship, but we’ve sent a message to our society that tobacco is evil … that causes harm.”

Dr Child said it was time to make the same shift with junk food.

The Food and Grocery Council, which represents many food companies, said in its submission there was no need for restrictions on company sponsorship, which it said was a mainstay of community projects and activities.

This initiative will fail on a number of fronts.

Take Subway.  You can go there and get yourself a fat and sugar-laden meal. But you can also go there and get a sandwich that most health professional would deem “healthy”.

So what do you do? Do you stop Subway from sponsoring or advertising in and around sports?

The other end of the problem is a supermarket. The supermarket itself is full of food that will make health professionals’ toes curl at the sheer death-inducing fattiness or sugariness of it all. Should Pak ‘n Save be banned from sponsoring trolley derbies, or the local under-16 girls’ hockey team?

Those are just two example of why a sponsorship ban on “junk food” sounds OK in principle, but is, in fact, impossible to implement.




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  • Quinton Hogg

    We keep hearing about the evils of junk food and how it must be prevented from passing the lips of our children.
    No-one has ever defined satisfactorily for me anyway, what “Junk food” is.
    My kids hardly touch maccas kfc or subway and yet one of them has a bit of bulk. it happens that he likes bread so eats quite a bit of it. Does that mean bread is junk food.

    • incognito

      Calorie food – could be the next target.

    • Mike Webber

      Sort of, all carbohydrates turns to sugar in the body, some slowly, some faster. Grains are one of the worst for putting on weight.

      Fat does not put on weight as the Americans found over 40 years ago, sugar does. 70% of the energy in meat is used to digest the meat as it is slow to be digested. A lot of the problem is the wrong information put out by so called experts.

      • Hailstormers

        Totally agree Mike. I’ve lost a tad over 18kg in the last 7 months. I’ve been going to the gym and paid good money to see a dietician after being overweight for the last 25 years.

        I have cut out 95% of my white food being sugar, bread, pasta, rice etc and if its made in a factory I don’t eat it. My sugar comes from fruit. I have never felt better in my life and now running 12 km a week. You are allowed to go of the tracks 5% of the time so don’t get to hung up if you go out for dinner or to a BBQ, just enjoy yourself. EG fries with my fish once a month is OK or a drink with the boys is fine. DON’T see it as a diet people see it as a lifestyle change.

        I’ve learnt a lot about food and exercise over the last few months. If you are inactive and shovel food down ya gob you are not doing your body any favours.

        Man those pies look nice but my head now says bacon, eggs, tomatoe, mushrooms and chorizo sausage for lunch.

        • KatB

          Good on you. You hit the nail on the head, a lifestyle change, not a diet.

      • KatB

        You’re right about the wrong information being put out there. I don’t want anybody telling me what is healthy or not. Frequently I don’t agree with the “experts”. You just need to look at the Heart Foundation Tick for starters.

  • waldopepper

    no real opinion either way, but sports clubs and the like may need these sort of sales in order to stay afloat these days ? whats better. sports club selling pies and chips to kids who then run around and burn up the energy, of the sports club going under and no longer being around. pretty sure the later would be more detrimental and cause more childhood obesity. and regardless, i dont think you can change eating habits. people tend to eat what they want to eat. if all that was available at a sports club was chicken salad, im sure many would simply stop at burger king on the way to the game.

  • metalnwood

    Once again ‘kids’ might be ‘influenced’ but that doesn’t mean I am. My 8 year old may want a coke but he won’t be getting one and he doesnt run around with a wallet full of money to buy his own.

    When he is old enough to walk around with disposable money then he is old enough to know what he wants and if he wants a coke and buys one it wont be because of advertising. Removing advertising won’t make him forget when he wants a fizzy and goes in to the dairy.

    I wonder how many of these health nuts actually do ‘sport’. I doubt sport is part of their health regime and probably something they think neanderthals do.

    • Brian Smaller

      This is the exact point that seems to miss the academics. Kids do not have disposable incomes of their own in almost all cases. Parents need to parent.

  • Sally

    Do the Health groups really think children are influenced by sponsors of sports clubs etc?
    One of the biggest thrills of my childhood was playing tennis against Peter Snell. That only happened because Rothmans sponsored him to tour the small towns of NZ.
    I certainly didn’t decide to take up smoking because I met my hero who was sponsored by Rothmans.

    We should be encouraging children to play sports and join clubs. Sponsorship is needed by these clubs to survive and keep membership affordable for all but what these ‘health experts’ what to do is chip away at a source of income and make clubs more elitist and prevent the less wealthy to participant.

  • incognito

    If a pie from the supermarket or dairy is junk food what is an apple pie made at home?
    Answer – Really nice with lots of ice cream.

  • Steely Man

    A question is what is the replacement?
    For instance when kids stopped smoking tobacco that was seen as a big win. No one seems to have connected it with the fact that there is a rise in the use of other addictive drugs -which are now relatively cheaper.
    Also what is “cool”?
    In a kids mind (who sees all their advertising on the screen of their phone and not the TV screen) this banned substance (junk food) is now more exciting since it is clearly something their parents aren’t allowed to see.
    Wait for the unintended consequence….

  • Bombastic

    These “health” groups fail in three respects. They never define “junk food”, food is simply food, it only becomes “junk” in excess. They always omit the flip side of the health coin, exercise. And finally they always make the tobacco analogy. That is fatally flawed, we need food to survive, not so with tobacco. Every time they do the latter, they simply lose credibility.

    • R&BAvenger

      They always designate the food and business as the cause of the problem and because people are dumb and dumber these days, they must be protected from it. I recall during my childhood, when fish and chips was the main takeaway available.
      We used to have them on a Friday night about once a month as a family treat. KFC was available, but was too expensive. I remember having it once during a family holiday in Nelson and it wasn’t very nice – too greasy.
      Even as an young adult we stuck to fish and chips and local burgers when out on the town.
      People are the problem, the poor choices they make food, wise over and over and over.

    • BigDogTalking

      Of course “junk food” is defined. It is any food promoted by a large corporation (preferably with a head office in the USA) and that “we” (self appointed bastions of perfect human behavior) don’t approve of.

  • Jaffa

    It’s not food, it’s exercise, or lack of it.
    When I was a kid, I ate pies, chips, anything, ran all over the place, and was as skinny as a rake.
    Now I’m old, fat, and don’t run anywhere.

    • Cadwallader

      I bet Mr Trubridge the lean and healthy Kiwi “Face of the day” had a similar boyhood. Did he require education from authoritarian luvvies to learn to moderate his diet? I doubt it; but I am sure he occasionally ploughs through plenty of fats and carbohydrates.

  • Second time around

    You can eat a perfectly healthy meal at MacDonalds and also have a reasonable assurance that you won’t succumb to food poisoning afterwards. The label “junk food” is really a rejection of American culture rather than a true measure of the food’s worth- fish and chips are not junk food, nor Devonshire tea with clotted cream and scones. A sugared drink is a sugared drink, whether Coca Cola or a traditional beverage like lemonade sweetened with honey

  • Wayne Hodge

    Presumably sausage sizzles would then be illegal? Bake stalls for fund raising would be banned as well? Thus at a time when many lament the passing or reduction in community involvement these social engineers would stifle many volunteer efforts or and more probably create a huge bureaucracy of jobsworths to ensure that only approved KiwiHealthy items were sold which had been prepared in approved KiwiKitchens by appropriately supervised KiwiEthnic cooks who had been positively vetted and were members of the Kiwi Home Food Preparers Union and registered with the Council of Kiwi Food Preparers.

    • edenman

      If sausage sizzles were banned how would the Labour Party raise funds. I don’t think selling apples or pears would attract fundraising money

  • waldopepper

    probably best if we ban all food except for soylent green.

  • Sally

    This is another way for do gooders to chip away at personal responsibility and bring us all down to the lowest common denominator. Just because some don’t know the word no or bad parents and can’t think for themselves we all have to be brought down to their level. “Ban away until all temptation is removed.”

    • KatB

      I was thinking the same thing Sally. How weak are we as parents if our kids can see an ad for junk food, then batter us into buying it for them? Has the word “no” been removed from the english language? The reality is, those obese kids will more often than not have obese parents and it suits those parents for everybody to be consuming the junk food.

  • Oh Please

    I’m sorry but this doesn’t sound okay at all. Where’s my freedom of choice? Why do my kids – who live healthy lifestyles, eat well and train regularly – get their occasional treats removed from them? Are these health professionals the same ones who denounce fat shaming? How about a 20% tax on unhealthy food for PIs only? This stupid idiotic practise has to be stopped now – first smoking, now food. Next? Will we have to wear our underwear on the outside of our clothes so the authorities can check we are changing them regularly? Will we be forced to have our 6 fruit and veg a day or be incarcerated? By all means run public information schemes, but at the end of the day freedom of the individual to make their own choices is paramount. As an aside, our local fat food joint sponsors at least half a dozen sports teams and a couple of schools in the neighbourhood – remove this sponsorship and less kids take part in sports. Unintentional side effects?

  • Keyser Soze

    I call this the Monty Pythonesk approach to social engineering. It goes something like this:

    Ban! Ban! Ban! Ban! Lovely Ban! Lovely Ban!
    Ban! Ban! Ban! Ban!
    Lovely Ban! Wonderful Ban!
    Ban Ba-a-a-a-a-an Ban Ba-a-a-a-a-an Ban.
    Lovely Ban! Lovely Ban! Lovely Ban! Lovely Ban!
    Ban Ban Ban Ban!

  • Jdogg

    So sick of this, come after our smokes, our booze and now our takeaways, lollies and fizzy.
    I have a family of skinny people!! Why?
    Call us daft but we exercise, lots. We play sport, we run around, we don’t sit on our behinds playing xbox. Even the word NO is used down the supermarket lolly/chippy/fizzy isles.

    We cook healthy and eat healthy 99% of the time but don’t begrudge treats.
    Can they not see the irony in banning sponsorship from sports teams and major events??
    Can we lobby to ban do-gooder nannying academics?

  • Kevin

    How are you supposed to legally define junk food anyway?

    For example some of the 6 inch sandwiches at Subway have more calories than a Big Mac. Also, just the other day I got some salmond and advocado sushi from a place that promotes itself as healthy eating – over 600 calories! For comparison a Big Mac has around 500 to 550 from memory. Or to put another way I would have to have walked about 20 mins to burn it off.

    • Urbanviper

      Food advertising in general is broken. It seems people can say all sorts of things. Many TANK juices have just as much sugar as soft drinks and yet they can give the impression these are healthy and use a little “guilt free” logo. Same with sushi and kebabs. Just because you can recognize most the items in your food doesn’t make it healthy and since most don’t require contents labeling they stuff them full of all sorts of stuff. Classic is sushi rice having sugar added to make it no better than a McDonalds hamburger.

  • Urbanviper

    Did big tobacco lose because they couldn’t advertise, or did they lose because hearts and minds turned against them? The two might briefly go hand in hand but there are back doors to everything. Sure, you can’t put an ad on TV, but you can get Leonardo DiCaprio in Romeo & Juliet to smoke a cigarette, silhouetted by the sun looking as relaxed as ever. I bet that got more teenagers smoking than any given ad. If they banned McDonalds et al from advertising how long would it be until their products started turning up in TV shows and as product placement in movies? Or they boost the “yum junk food” smell that wofts from their establishments? The problem is the government is slow but marketing companies are quick. They will always be one step ahead.

    • Second time around

      Probably the former, and it is why the tax has had to increase exponentially to have the least effect on recidivist smokers. Taxes don’t touch the rich, but could easily lead to poorer children not getting fed properly or the house not getting heated in winter. In any case you cannot have a policy of equality and a living wage, the usual social do gooder stuff, and then apply punitive taxes on items that poorer people often purchase.

  • newzeal

    The only reasonable solution is to force media outlets to allow brocolli adverts to be free…

  • JustanObserver

    It may be that a ‘Polar-Shift’ is called for …
    I think the Academics, Lobby-Groups, Interested-Person’s and Meteria Turei should all have a Tax-Payer funded retreat to … White Island … so they can conference and debate ‘Permissible’ Advertising Standards.
    The ‘allowed’ products and services on the ‘Permissible’ list should be quite few and the list quite short I would imagine.
    This will save a lot of time and further ‘Troughing’ in the future.
    We will all be so much better off for their wisdom.

  • Dog Breath

    Maccas has health options to so the perceived worst also falls into the subway problem.