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Junk food ads near schools

15 July 2005

Junk food ads near schools a part of pro-obesity environment

The billboards promoting junk food that surround New Zealand schools are but one element of the unhealthy childhood environment that is causing the obesity epidemic, Green Safe Food Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

A University of Otago study, to be published by the New Zealand Medical Journal, has found that outdoor advertising for unhealthy food and drink is common around secondary schools. Anthony Maher, the report's author, has called for more research into how this trend is contributing to the fact that one third of Kiwi kids are overweight. The Obesity Action Coalition has called for such billboards to be regulated.

"I welcome Obesity Action's call, but billboards are just one aspect of the problem," Ms Kedgley says.

"We need to address the entire environment that children are growing up in. Television advertising is another principal offender and I renew my call for a ban on the touting of junk food during kids' programming. Children are being targeted with messages that encourage them to consume fatty, sugary food and drink and then we wonder why so many of them are overweight.

"And it is not just signage that is near schools. There are also many fast food outlets that are located nearby specifically to encourage young people to frequent them.

"Frankly the voluntary Food Industry Accord, signed by the industry and the Government last year, is not worth the paper it is written on. At the time it was said there was no need for any regulation because the food industry was now going to be part of the solution to childhood obesity.

"But I have been unable to detect any improvement whatsoever in the food being targeted at young people, or any reduction in the marketing pressures by the industry to encourage young people to eat unhealthy food. It is time for the Government to stop pussy-footing around and introduce regulatory controls to protect our children from the overwhelming marketing pressures to eat unhealthy food," Ms Kedgley says.

ENDS

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