Junk food advertising ban called for by health advocacy group in Western Australia

Associate Professor Christina Pollard
PHAIWA Director Associate Professor Christina Pollard

The Public Health Advocacy Institute of Western Australia (PHAIWA) based at Curtin University, is calling on the State Government to end junk food advertising on government property, including trains, buses, bus shelters, billboards and sporting venues. 

Healthy WA, a website of the WA Department of Health says: junk food describes food and drinks low in nutrients (eg vitamins, minerals and fibre) and high in kilojoules, saturated fat and added sugar and salt. Junk foods are not a necessary component of any diet.

Nevertheless surveys have shown that junk food provides 41 per cent of children’s and 34 per cent of adult’s energy intake.

The prime aim of the proposed ban is to reduce the exposure of children to this advertising, but it is also important for seniors.

So the proposed advertising ban is equally important for senior’s health.

PHAIWA Director Associate Professor Christina Pollard said good nutrition is important for older people. They need to maintain a good quality diet. 

“The advertisements are aimed at everybody, not just children. They remind people of food items they might like. It is similar to the two fruit, five veg campaign; it keeps reminding people.

Older people, especially those living alone, often lose the energy and enthusiasm to cook healthy meals, relying on prepared ‘ready meals’ which just needs reheating. 

“Ready meals are sometimes good. They can be low in sugar and fat and with adequate fibre, but  the temptation is to eat frozen pizza, pies, biscuits or sweets that are high in fat.

“The reason we are pushing this now is that we have a State government that is big on public health. Australian states have control over advertising and the WA government can use its power to encourage the public to eat well” she said.

A ban on unhealthy food and drink promotions on all state premises is one of the recommendations in the Sustainable Health Review released by the State Government in 2019. At present there are no regulations restricting advertising of unhealthy food.

Already London, Amsterdam and the Australian Capital Territory have banned the advertising of unhealthy foods and beverages on publicly owned assets. 

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reported in August 2020 that older Australians – people aged 55 years and over – are being strongly caught up in the national obesity epidemic. 

The AIHW says the number of obese older Australians trebled over the past 20 years, due to the combined effect of an ageing population and the obesity epidemic. These older Australians are about 6 – 7 kg heavier on average than their counterparts were 20 years ago. 

The WA Cancer Council in a report prepared by Deakin University Global Obesity Centre, says unhealthy diets, overweight and obesity are the greatest risk factors for death and disease in Australia and globally. Consumption of unhealthy food and sugary drinks increases toxic fat and puts people at risk of 13 types of cancer, type II diabetes, heart disease and other chronic illnesses.

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Frank Smith was trained as an agricultural scientist in the UK, moving to WA in 1974 and shortly afterwards began lecturing at WAIT (now Curtin University) in soils and agronomy. In 1979 he joined the Agriculture Protection Board in charge of publications and media relations, studying part time for a degree in Journalism. In 1992 he spent a year as a visiting professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Later he ran a small publication company with his wife Mary-Helen. He then began freelance writing, editing and book indexing. He has written articles for more than 40 magazines in four continents and indexed more than 20 books. In 2007 he started writing for Have a Go News and gradually reduced his writing for other publications. He later took over the subediting, ensuring Have a Go News is consistent in style and highly readable. He and Mary-Helen live in a passive solar home in the Perth Hills with a varying collection of quendas and native birds.