Junk food ad ban 'won't stop obesity'

PARENTS have far more power than advertising to make a difference in the fight against childhood obesity, a University of the Sunshine Coast academic says.

Advertising regulation adjunct professor Glen Wiggs said yesterday that banning junk food ads would not make a difference to childhood obesity.

Instead, parents needed to be re-educated as to what constituted a healthy diet, Mr Wiggs told a House of Representatives health and ageing committee.

"When it comes to food, at best the influence of advertising on children is 2% but parental influence on choice of food is 9%.

"When it comes to snacking, however, those figures go to 2% and 29%.

"What that tells us is that kids follow their parents.

"So what is needed is a re-education of parents as well as giving parents the tools to combat obesity in their children."

Mr Wiggs said research conducted by the university revealed that parents, even those with good intentions, did not understand what was part of a healthy diet.

"For example, some thought that organic meant healthy when it is not necessarily healthy at all," he said.

"Also, we pointed out to the committee that the current law prevents you advertising the benefits of healthy food.

"You are not allowed to use the word healthy to describe healthy food. So you can't say eat fruits and vegetables because they are healthy in an ad.

"So it can get confusing."

Mr Wiggs said that children largely learnt their eating habits from watching their parents, and human nature dictated that parents didn't always do the right thing for themselves.

"Parents do what they have always done, even before they had children.

"And what they know they pass on to their children. So if parents eat three things of chocolate at night, even though they know they shouldn't, kids will follow that.

"Obesity is a huge issue and it's one which society needs to deal with. Parents are a big part of that."

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