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Self regulation protects advertisers not consumers

MEDIA RELEASE
21 December 2006

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Advertising self regulation protects advertisers not consumers

Bluebird Foods Ltd has agreed to withdraw an advertisement in which a nutritionist recommended potato crisps as suitable for school lunches following a complaint to the Advertising Standards Assn by the Obesity Action Coalition.

“The last thing parents need in the battle to get their kids eating well is a nutritionist on a TV ad telling kids chippies are OK for school lunches. We are pleased Bluebird has agreed to withdraw the advertisement,” says Celia Murphy of the Obesity Action Coalition. “OAC considered the ad to be irresponsible.”

“It is such a shame that people had to see the ad at all. It should never have been shown,” says Ms Murphy.

“I find it astonishing that anyone, and especially a nutritionist, would think it was all right to recommend chippies for school lunches. Chippies are very high in fat and salt and no stretch of the imagination could make them OK as a healthy everyday food. Chippies are party food not school food.”

“The ad undermined parents’ and teachers’best efforts to teach children about good healthy eating and the right place of treats in the diet. Many schools are getting rid of foods like chippies from their tuck shops to support classroom nutrition lessons.”

Advertising in New Zealand is controlled by the Advertising Standards Association, an industry-based organisation. “Self-regulation has been described as being akin to putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank.” says Ms Murphy. “Industry monitoring itself just doesn’t work. It does not provide enough protection for consumers.”

OAC believes the Advertising Standards Association fails consumers on a number of counts.

Among its failures is the fact that action is only taken to review an ad once a complaint has been made. This means that vulnerable consumers are always exposed to the irresponsible and misleading ads for some time before they are withdrawn. The ASA say that complaints are dealt with in about 24 days from the time they are received. So, at best, it is weeks before an offending ad is withdrawn.

”A misleading or irresponsible ad can be seen by a lot of people and do a lot of damage in that time. If no-one complains, the ad stays. If the process was really about protecting consumers any ad which was subject to a complaint would be stopped, pending enquiry as soon as a complaint has been received. Corrective advertising should also follow to ensure those who have been misled get the right information.”

“Many people have no idea they can complain and many of those who do, have little confidence in the system and don’t bother.”

OAC believes advertising should be regulated and managed by an independent agency to give consumers more protection.

“Parents get a pretty poor deal from those in the food and advertising industries who are quick to blame burgeoning childhood obesity on a lack of parental responsibility but continue to use the most persuasive marketing methods to tempt them to buy high fat, high sugar foods.” says Ms Murphy.


ENDS

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