Last updated: 26 May, 2021

VicHealth calls on Aus government to protect kids from unhealthy food ads

The UK government has today committed to protecting children from being targeted by the processed food industry, announcing a ban on televised junk food ads before 9pm and a total ban online.
VicHealth CEO Sandro Demaio welcomed today’s announcement with a call on the Australian Government to also put Aussie kids’ health over unhealthy food company profits. 
“While a welcome step for the UK, Australian kids continue to be bombarded by unhealthy food ads – on tv and increasingly online,” Dr Demaio said.
“Since coronavirus, our kids have spent an increasing amount of time online. The digital world in which they play, learn and interact with their friends is rife with sneaky ads for unhealthy food and drinks – from apps, advergames, influencer posts on social media to strategies that encourage content sharing among friends.

“We know an estimated 72 million data points will have been collected by companies on each Australian child by the age of 13. There’s then nothing stopping the processed food industry from buying this kind of data from digital platforms and using it to target them with marketing, essentially making our kids the product.

“We know young children and teenagers are more vulnerable to marketing than adults – they’re often unable to tell if something is an ad – particularly if it’s disguised as a post from someone they look up to on social media. 

“We need the Australian Government to urgently act and put children’s health and safety above industries who profit from harmful products like unhealthy food, alcohol and gambling.”

VicHealth is calling for the Australian Government to set higher standards for digital marketing to kids to ensure:

  • children are protected from marketing of unhealthy products online
  • children’s data is better protected, so harmful industries can’t use it to target them with digital marketing
  • social media influencers with large followings of children cannot promote harmful products
  • harmful industries report how much they spend on digital marketing each year, how they collect and use personal information and how they target people via digital marketing.