Regulation on promotion of 'junk food' to children: a need in the Pacific Islands? (#117)
The Global Action Plan on Non-communicable diseases (NCD) from the World Health Organization, includes a call for countries to implement the WHO’s recommendations on the marketing of foods and non‐alcoholic beverages to children. While the burden of NCDs in the Pacific Islands is high, with a growing problem in children, the need for controls on marketing is under discussion. With extensive exposure to imported media via satellite and internet, controlling exposure within the region may present challenges to regulators.
To ascertain the extent of advertising and promotion of ‘junk foods’ to children on locally controlled television stations, data was collected using standardised methodology, on the levels and type of food advertising in 6 Pacific Island countries and Territories. Only locally run terrestrial television channels were included, and stations were recorded and assessed over two weekdays and one weekend, from 6am to 9pm. Food products were coded using nutrient profiling criteria into unhealthy or healthy product.
Considerable differences in levels of advertising were noted between the countries. Substantially more advertising for unhealthy products was found in Fiji, compared to the other sites, with most of the advertising being for products which were locally manufactured. Across the countries higher levels of advertising of these products were generally found in non-school hours. There was also considerable use of young actors and techniques which were likely to appeal to young audiences.
While the extent of locally produced media is relatively low in this region, there is still an issue of advertising of unhealthy foods and drinks to children. High levels of imported media will create challenges for efforts to reduce marketing levels, and the region would benefit from progress in this issue in neighbouring countries. While efforts are underway in Fiji to regulate on this issue, private sector opposition will be a challenge.