AANA slams 'nonsense' links between obesity and advertising

The Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) has slammed the Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) for suggesting its self-regulatory system for food advertising has failed, refuting claims marketing is to blame for childhood obesity and defending  industry practice.

The AANA's response has been the latest instalment in the on-going war between between health groups and industry bodies over the effectiveness of the self-regulatory code of food advertising to children.

The OPC, which is a coalition of public health bodies, released a new report yesterday that argued the AANA's codes governing food marketing and advertising to children were not effective and were contributing the rising levels of childhood obesity.

Named 'Exposing the Charade', the investigation claimed the current industry codes were riddled with loopholes which allowed the processed food industry to promote their products to young viewers, and said there was a need for a "fundamental shift" in the way food advertising is regulated in Australia.

The report also attacked the Advertising Standards Bureau's (ASB) practice, saying its decisions were inconsistent with community standards and often failed to consider key claims.

However, the AANA has hit back at the OPC's report, saying its self-regulatory codes and the ASB are effective in governing the marketing of unhealthy food to children.

AANA acting chief executive officer Alina Bain said: “Once again the OPC has produced a document with no new evidence or data to suggest that advertising contributes to unhealthy outcomes and conveniently matches its pre-determined agenda.

“We all agree that obesity – especially childhood obesity – is a serious problem. It deserves serious, independent research into developing real solutions. The OPC piece runs counter to the principle of evidence based review and response.

"It is nonsense to suggest that the ASB is out-of-touch with community concerns and standards around food advertising. Food and beverage advertising complaints account for around 20% of all complaints annually.

"Furthermore the ASB’s recent Community Perceptions Report 2012 showed the when it comes to its determinations, the ASB takes a more conservative stance on themes relating to health than the community.

“The low level of consumer complaints about food and beverage advertising demonstrates the system is delivering for the public.

“The AANA is working with the Australian Government through the Australian National Preventive Health Agency (ANHPA), which has been tasked by the Australian Health Ministers Conference, to monitor food marketing to children. We’re determined to work with Government and stakeholders to help ensure that advertising does not contribute to unhealthy or unsafe outcomes, that’s in everyone’s best interest."

In July, the industry body released a study revealing that 70% of parents weren't influenced by advertising when choosing food and drinks for their children, and that 92% of parents were responsible for what their children consume.

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