Industry self regulation of television food advertising: Responsible or responsive?


University of Sydney, COO, level 2 K25, Sydney, 2006 Australia. Email:


Introduction. This study evaluated the impact of the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) self-regulatory initiative on unhealthy food marketing to children, introduced in January 2009. The study compared patterns of food advertising by AFGC and non-AFGC signatory companies in 2009, 2007 and 2006 on three Sydney commercial free-to-air television channels. Methods. Data were collected across seven days in May 2006 and 2007, and four days in May 2009. Advertised foods were coded as core, non-core and miscellaneous. Regression for counts analyses was used to examine change in rates of advertisements across the sampled periods and differential change between AFGC-signatory or non-signatory companies between 2007 and 2009. Results. Of 36 food companies that advertised during the 2009 sample period, 14 were AFGC signatories. The average number of food advertisements decreased significantly from 7.0 per hour in 2007 to 5.9 in 2009. There was a significant reduction in non-core food advertising from 2007 to 2009 by AFGC signatories compared with non-signatory companies overall and during peak times, when the largest numbers of children were viewing. There was no reduction in the rate of non-core food advertisements by all companies, and these advertisements continue to comprise the majority during peak viewing times. Discussion. While some companies have responded to pressures to reduce unhealthy food advertising on television, the impact of the self-regulatory code is limited by the extent of uptake by food companies. The continued advertising of unhealthy foods indicates that this self-regulatory code does not adequately protect children.