28 Jun 2022

Study shows need for law to limit fast food marketing aimed at children - doctor

6:27 am on 28 June 2022

Research has found Auckland fast food and takeaway businesses made $6.7 billion over the past six years.

Single use take away containers

File pic. Photo: 123RF

An analysis of Marketview data, which tracks Eftpos spending, was carried out by the Helen Clark Foundation and Health Coalition Aotearoa.

Dr Michael Hale, Auckland Regional Public Health Service's (ARPHS) clinical lead for the Healthy Auckland Together coalition, said the figures were an indictment on the city's food environment and the lack of adequate regulation.

"The data confirms what we've known for a long time; fast food companies have a vice-like grip on our wallets," Hale said. "And they've used worrying strategies to get it."

While junk food marketing was prevalent across the entire region, Hale said this was at saturation point in areas of high deprivation.

"The new data shows just how entrenched it is in communities who are least able to afford it - either economically, socially or in health terms."

Out of the top 15 locations for junk food sales, 93 percent were in areas of high deprivation, while 60 percent were in areas with the highest levels of deprivation.

An analysis of the data also showed, if measured as a single food item on an annual basis, the order for every adult, child and baby would equate to one of the following equivalents on average - 143.3 million Big Macs, 584m KFC Wicked Wings, 319.7m scoops of hot chips or 112m pizzas.

At present communities have no say over which businesses set up in their local area, and even councils have no power to restrict businesses' access to certain areas. Greater community say over which stores were allowed to set up locally would make a big difference when it comes to achieving healthier neighbourhoods, Dr Hale said.

"The choices we make about what to eat are heavily influenced by what's available, what's cheap and what's convenient. So if our local shops are dominated by 24/7 fast food outlets rather than reasonably priced supermarkets, those choices tend to be made for us."

Hale said ARPHS was seeking regulatory change to protect vulnerable children from being targeted by unhealthy food and drink marketing.

"The Marketview data shows exactly why new legislation is needed and fast," he said.

"Forty percent of our tamariki and rangatahi aged four to 19 are already living with overweight or obesity, and fast food businesses aren't going to voluntarily reduce their profit margins to turn that tide."

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