Junk Food Advertising Targeted as ‘Major Contributor’ to Obesity in New Zealand

by Ella

New Zealand health officials are pushing for stricter rules on food advertising, citing it as a significant factor contributing to obesity and various health issues. The Ministry of Health has highlighted the adverse impact of advertising unhealthy food and beverages on the nation’s health, including conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, oral disease, and neurological diseases.

In a submission to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the Ministry of Health emphasized the urgent need for more robust regulations in food and drink marketing, especially concerning children. Health officials expressed concerns about the use of digital tracking to target unhealthy food advertising toward children, asserting that the proposed guidelines by ASA do not adequately protect children from such marketing tactics.


The Ministry of Health is calling for a ban on digital tracking to target children, a practice commonly observed on the websites of popular food and beverage brands. The submission also pointed out that many of these websites allow children to register or participate in promotions, with insufficient information provided to parents about these activities.


While health officials are adamant about the need for stricter regulations to curb the impact of junk food advertising, the Association of New Zealand Advertisers has defended the industry, claiming that food and beverage companies are not targeting children but rather adults and parents. They argue that measures to prevent interest-based targeting of under-18s are already in place through platforms like Meta, Google, and YouTube.


New Zealand faces alarming obesity rates, with the second-highest rate of child obesity among developed nations and the third-highest rate of adult obesity. The Ministry of Health contends that advertising plays a pivotal role in this issue and has raised concerns about the effectiveness of the current voluntary regime, where the industry self-regulates.


To address this problem, the Ministry of Health is advocating for stricter regulations, particularly in limiting sponsorship advertising by brands associated with junk food. However, the Food and Grocery Council, representing food manufacturers and suppliers, opposes these changes, expressing concerns about the potential impact on major community events and sports sponsorships.

Critics argue that the advertising industry should not regulate itself and that stronger measures are required to combat the concerning rates of child obesity in New Zealand. While the Advertising Standards Authority has claimed an effective track record over its 50-year history, health experts contend that more stringent regulations are necessary to address the issue of junk food advertising.



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