Source: University of Otago, 9 October 2017
New Zealand children are exposed to around 27 unhealthy food
advertisements per day, innovative camera research from Otago and
Auckland Universities reveals. The research found children were
frequently exposed, across multiple settings, to marketing of
unhealthy foods not recommended to be marketed to children.
Most common were ads for sugary drinks, fast food, confectionary
and snack foods, and the most common marketing medium was product
packaging followed by signs. Lead researcher Associate Professor
Louise Signal says the study provides further evidence of the need
for urgent action to reduce children's exposure to marketing of
"Children in the study were exposed to unhealthy food ads in
multiple places via multiple media - including an average of seven
unhealthy food ads at school and eight in public places.
"These junk food ads are littering children's lives," says
Associate Professor Signal, from the Department of Public Health at
the University of Otago, Wellington.
Children are more than twice as likely to be exposed to
unhealthy food marketing compared to healthy food marketing. The
research suggests that our children live in an 'obesogenic' world -
one that promotes obesity as a normal response to their everyday
The researchers are calling for urgent Government action to
clean up the junk food advertisements surrounding children to help
"The findings are a real concern given high rates of obesity
amongst NZ children and the known influence of marketing on
children's food choices," says the overall programme director
Professor Cliona Ni Mhurchu from the University of Auckland.
The study, Kids'Cam, is a world first. The researchers used
automated wearable cameras and GPS units to study the children's
world. 168 children between the ages of 11 and 13 took part in the
study, wearing the devices which recorded photos every seven
seconds and locations every five seconds over four days.
The children were randomly selected and recruited from 16
randomly selected schools in the Wellington region.
Today's research was published in the International Journal of
Behavioral Nutrition & Physical Activity and reports on the
main study, Kids'Cam Food Marketing, which examined the frequency
and nature of children's exposure to food and beverage
Junk food marketing contributes to the worldwide increase in
childhood obesity by encouraging the repeat purchase and
consumption of unhealthy foods. The World Health Organization (WHO)
Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO) recommends that such
marketing should be reduced and that 'settings where children and
adolescents gather (such as schools and sports facilities or
events) should be free of marketing of unhealthy food and
In New Zealand, the industry self-regulating Children's Code for
Advertising Food states that 'food advertisements should not
undermine the food and nutrition policies of Government, the
Ministry of Health Food and Nutrition Guidelines nor the health and
well-being of children'.
"Our research shows that this is clearly not working. It is time
for government regulation of food marketing," says Associate
"Working with the children was a great privilege. They were
wonderful researchers," she says. It is important that children's
view is considered in decisions about their world. Often they are
the ones best placed to inform adults, as in this study," she
"Further, New Zealand is obligated to consider children's views
under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the
Many ancillary projects using the Kids'Cam data will come out of
this study. Analyses of the data have been occurring since 2015 and
there will be studies on many other aspects of children's world,
including studies of children's exposure to alcohol, smoking, and
gambling, and their use of "green" space, transport, and sun
protection. A parallel study has also been completed with 108
similar aged children in Tonga.
The research was funded by the Health Research Council of NZ as
part of the DIET research programme (13/724) led by Professor
Cliona Ni Mhurchu at the University of Auckland.
Read the full paper here.