‘Say No to Junk Food Advertisements’

07/05/2014 11:42

The Consumer Council of Fiji is urging the Ministry of Health to speed up the process of putting in place a legislation to control the marketing of junk food to children.

There is an absolute need to legally curb advertisements of junk food as well as using children in these advertisements to market these products.

This issue has remained a pressing issue for the Council for years now and it reiterates its earlier call to the food manufacturers, distributors and retailers to exercise social responsibility when marketing and promoting food to children.

The Council is deeply concerned with the alarming increase in the Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the country and in particular, it being the leading cause of premature deaths.

The “Consumer Watchdog” has been lobbying strongly against unethical advertisements to children for a while now. In 2008, we marked World Consumer Rights Day with the theme “Junk Food Generation – Advertising and Marketing of Unhealthy Food to Children in Fiji”. This was when we exposed our survey findings on the sale and marketing of unhealthy foods in schools.

The Council strongly believes that the awareness has to begin with children and the most crucial step to take first is to bring about a control on the marketing of unhealthy foods for children.

Children can very well be taught about the dangers of NCDs and eating unhealthy food, but what is the point when they keep getting exposed to advertisements about less healthy foods –what happens to the child’s mindset when he watches an advertisement on a fizzy drink or a slot on snacks on TV, newspapers or roadside billboards.

Children in Fiji are now more exposed to junk food and unhealthy eating habit with new types of junk food coming into the market with affordable prices – for instance, today, the cost of soft drinks is often lower than water.

All stakeholders – the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, the manufacturers, distributors, the retailers, the media, school management and parents - all have to take a multidimensional approach to ensure Fijians, especially the children are taught about the ills of consuming junk food.

A special call is made to the school management and administrators to ensure that school canteens are free of junk food and parents must take the responsibility of making sure their children have access to healthy food such as fruits and vegetables.

The Council is urging food companies to market their products responsibly and be mindful that the high incidence of NCDs is a national health issue and it remains optimistic that the Ministry of Health will bring in laws purporting to curb the irresponsible marketing of unhealthy foods in the country.