JUNK food companies are avoiding TV advertising restrictions by promoting products such as chocolate, ice-cream and soft drink to kids via Facebook, an Australian study shows.
THE Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has voluntary restrictions on advertising such food during children’s TV programs, but there are no such restrictions on the internet.
University of Sydney researchers analysed 27 of the top-ranking Facebook pages of unhealthy food and drinks brands.
During the one-month study, they found these pages attracted over 13 million “likes” from Australians.
The most popular of these pages in Australia was Bubble O’Bill Ice Cream, made by Streets, with more than one million Australian likes.
Among those aged 13 to 17 years, the most popular pages were Maltesers Australia, Cold Rock Ice Creamery, Slurpee Australia, Subway Australia and Coca-Cola Australia.
The study found the pages were professionally moderated and administered by either the company brand owner or an authorised advertising agency.
The majority of brand pages used celebrities, licensed characters popular with children, and sportspeople to promote their products.
Lead author Dr Becky Freeman, of the University’s school of public health, said one of the powerful environmental factors influencing the rise in obesity was the ubiquitous presence of food and beverage marketing.
Yet most of the research of this marketing had focused on TV advertising, she said.
“Our study shows that this narrow focus is likely to miss large amounts of online advertising aimed at adolescents,” Dr Freeman said.
“As a minimal first step, increased monitoring of how energy dense, nutrient-poor food and beverages are marketed on social media is essential.”