Dentists back calls to restrict junk food advertising

Dentists are calling for a change to how food marketing to children is monitored.

Dentists are backing calls for greater restrictions on the marketing of junk food.

A recent article in the New Zealand Medical Journal looked at children’s views on junk food marketing, including advertising, what nutritional information should be provided, and how healthy food is promoted.

The New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA) led Consensus Statement on Sugary Drinks calls for a change to how food marketing to children is monitored.

“Not only does the study show how aware children are of marketing of junk food, including sugary drinks, but frankly, the response from industry representatives Food and Grocery Council of ‘don’t worry people can complain to the Commerce Commission or Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)’ isn’t practical or good enough,” NZDA sugary drinks spokesperson Dr Rob Beaglehole said.

Dr Beaglehole points out that in 2017 NZDA complained to the ASA over Pepsi Max emoji caricatures of the All Blacks on drink cans could appeal to children. The campaign was heavily promoted on digital, print, and bus stop adverts.

“The complaint was settled as the advertiser took down the adverts voluntarily. This highlights the problem of what essentially is industry self-regulation that is not working.

NZDA had to identify an issue, enact a complaint, and it didn’t lead to a disincentive to that type of approach to marketing, as the campaign had already run its course.

“What we need is independent monitoring and evaluation of food marketing, particularly of that which influences our children. Our organisation, and many others identify that the self-regulatory advertising model isn’t working,” Dr Beaglehole said.

A consortium of public health groups is backing a NZDA-led 7-point Consensus Statement on Sugary Drinks.

The seven actions are;

1) Introducing an icon on drinks indicating, in teaspoons, the amount of sugar in each drink.

2) Independent monitoring and evaluation of food marketing, with an emphasis on marketing that influences children.

3) Urging the government to adopt WHO limit guidelines on sugar.

4) Encouraging public to switch to water by; introducing warning labels highlighting sugary drinks as risk factors for obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay, and a nationwide social marketing campaigns such as ‘Switch to Water’.

5) Working with schools and the Ministry of Education to introduce ‘water only’ policies.

6) Introducing local council ‘water only’ policies at council facilities and events.

7) Introduction of a ‘sugary drinks’ tax in line with WHO recommendations.

The Consensus Statement is endorsed by; Activity and Nutrition Aotearoa (ANA), Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, Cancer Society of New Zealand, Diabetes New Zealand, Hapai Te Hauora, NZ Dental & Oral Health Therapists Association, NZ Branch of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Paediatric Dentistry, NZ Society of Hospital and Community Dentistry, Te Ao Marama, The Heart Foundation, The Public Health Association, The Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons.