ADELAIDE: A child watching just 80 minutes of television per day will be exposed to more than 800 junk food ads over the course of a year, according to research from the University of Adelaide.

Associate Professor Lisa Smithers, of the University of Adelaide, and her team built a bespoke TV monitoring system – believed to be a world first – to capture an entire year’s worth of television and ads from one free-to-air commercial TV network in South Australia.

Thirty thousand hours of television containing almost 100,000 ads for food were logged during 2016 as part of the research, B&T reported.

The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating was used to group food and beverages into healthy, discretionary (i.e. unhealthy) and other categories. During children’s peak viewing times, the frequency and duration of “discretionary” (i.e. junk) food advertising was 2.3 times higher each hour than for healthy foods.

“Diet-related problems are the leading cause of disease in Australia, and the World Health Organization has concluded that food marketing influences the types of foods that children prefer to eat, ask their parents for, and ultimately consume,” Smithers said in comments on the findings.

“Australian health, nutrition and policy experts agree that reducing children’s exposure to junk food ads is an important part of tackling obesity and there is broad public support for stronger regulation of advertising to protect children,” she added.

The findings indicated that snack foods, crumbed/battered meats, fast food and sugar-packed drinks were among the most advertised. Across the year, discretionary food advertising peaked at 71% of all food advertising in January, dropping to a low of 41% in August.

“This is the most robust data we’ve seen anywhere,” Smithers noted. “It is the largest dataset ever used by health researchers for examining food advertising in Australia, and probably the world.”

The Heart Foundation-funded research was published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health this week.

Sourced from University of Adelaide. B&T; additional content by WARC staff