Children are exposed to up to 2800 junk food ads every year on their way to and from school, according to Cancer Council NSW and University of Wollongong research.
The study — published in Public Health Research & Practice — mapped routes to 21 schools across Sydney, collecting data on the types of outdoor ads children are exposed to every day. Of the food ads recorded, only 11% were classified as healthy while three quarters were for ‘discretionary foods’. These are the foods high in energy, saturated fat, sugar and salt that are not part of a healthy diet.
Fast foods such as burgers, chips, pizza and drinks were the most commonly advertised food (23%), followed by sugary drinks (17%) and snack food (16%). Kids who walk to school see the least number of junk food ads (1.7 per trip), while those who take the train see considerably more (7.3 per trip).
“These statistics are extremely concerning. We know that one in five NSW children have overweight or obesity; unhealthy habits developed now will carry into later life and can influence their risk of 13 different cancers,” said Cancer Council NSW’s Manager Nutrition Unit, Clare Hughes. “With a child’s school journey equating to over 400 trips per year, we are concerned that exposure to outdoor junk food advertising is unavoidable whether a child is walking, or taking the bus or train.
Cancer Council is calling on the government to commit to environments that help children develop healthy eating habits. If the Government removes junk food ads on government property they will be supporting other government initiatives to reduce childhood obesity.”