Restrictions on advertising unhealthy food are needed to protect young consumers.

Research shows food marketing influences children’s eating habits and is considered a significant contributor to childhood obesity. Latest figures show 21 percent of New Zealand children aged 2 to 14 are overweight and a further 10 percent are obese.

The Advertising Standards Authority has been consulting on changes to its codes for advertising to children. We’ve made a submission to the authority calling for the codes to be strengthened significantly to protect children from unhealthy food marketing.

Among other changes, we’ve called for the codes to be widened to cover advertising on product packaging. Our research has found marketing targeted at children is widespread on food packaging and is often found on products high in fat, sugar and salt.

In the absence of regulation, we also want to see independent evaluation and monitoring of the codes, and stronger sanctions for non-compliance. Public areas where children gather (such as schools, libraries and sports facilities) should also be free from marketing of unhealthy foods and sugar-sweetened beverages.