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How food firms target kids

New research from the University of Auckland looks at the insidious way in which food companies are using social media to promote what is often unhealthy foods to New Zealand children.

In an excellent article on this research published in The Press this month  Ewan Sargent summarises the way fast food companies such as Coca- Cola and McDonald’s reach out to children aged 13-18yrs through social media.

“Activities for consumers include games, recipe ideas, voting, tagging, liking and sharing posts and following the brand on other media forms (Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter) arts and crafts, registering for an event and downloading apps” he said.

This work has built on earlier studies reported in the NZ Medical Journal last year that highlighted the way in which food companies were using the internet to market unhealthy food to New Zealand children and adolescents.

With New Zealand’s high rate of obesity at the moment the marketing of unhealthy foods online is an important issue for us all to be aware of.

So what can parents do to safe guard their children?

  • It’s important to understand the ways in which children can be targeted, followed and involved in some of these marketing practices being highlighted in this research (above).
  • It may also be helpful to know that the previous government was in the process of reviewing changes to the Advertising Standards Authority code of practice.  A good summary of how well this was done has been put forward by Boyd Swinburne and Stefanie Vandevijvereto on behalf of health professors:
    Proposed new industry code on unhealthy food marketing to children and young people: Will it make a difference?
  • Find out what Canada is now doing with food labelling in order to help combat the consumption of junk foods
  • Learn about what Jamie Oliver is up to with his latest I’ve #AdEnough of junk food marketing have you? initiative

As mentioned in all these documents and articles, government regulation is urgently needed to create a policy framework which privileges child health above commercial interests

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