Bendigo organisations back AMA call to ban junk food advertising

Representatives from Headspace and the Loddon Mallee Preschool Association are supporting calls to ban junk food advertising and introduce a sugar tax.

The Australian Medical Association took aim at junk food and sugary drinks late last week when it released its Position Statement on Nutrition 2018.

The AMA called for a ban on junk food and soft drink advertising being aimed at children as well as the introduction of a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.

AMA president Michael Gannon said eating habits and attitudes toward food are established in early childhood.

He said advertising and marketing on all media platforms undermined healthy food education and made eating junk food seem normal.

“Eating habits and attitudes start early, and if we can establish healthy habits from the start, it is much more likely that they will continue throughout adolescence and into adulthood,” he said.

Loddon Mallee Preschool Association early years manager Belinda Schultz backed Dr Gannon’s comments.

The association has 28 members spread through the Greater Bendigo, Swan Hill and Campaspe regions.

“Anything that helps with supporting and promoting healthy eating and active play is definitely something we would encourage,” she said.

Ms Schultz said educating parents and their children helped develop good eating habits early.

“We have healthy eating, oral health and active play policies at each of our kinders,” she said.. 

“Active play is something we work really hard to promote, as is the Smiles For Miles program which is really supportive of all those concepts. 

“Our education programs and newsletters encourage healthy eating and discussion about how much sugar is in certain foods.”

Headspace Bendigo senior clinician Meg Bennett said there was some evidence that a sugar tax had been successful in other countries.

“(A sugar tax) would be worth trying and reducing ads would be beneficial,” she said.

“If start you start (healthy food education) at a young age with schools and pre-schools it gets the message across, it's really powerful,” she said.

“If certain families had more education they could make a good change and a tax might encourage people to go the healthier options.”

Bendigo Health has already taken steps to ensure patients and visitors have access to healthy options rather than junk food and soft drinks.

“Bendigo Health has implemented guidelines to ensure healthy options are always available in cafes and vending machines on hospital grounds,” a spokesperson said.

“Bendigo Health has also removed all drinks that have added sugar from vending machines and retail outlets within the hospital.”

Other recommendations from the position statement included: 

  • Water to be provided as the default beverage option, and a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages to be introduced.
  • Healthy foods to be provided in all health care settings, and vending machines containing unhealthy food and drinks to be removed.
  • Better food labelling to improve consumers’ ability to distinguish between naturally occurring and added sugars.
  • Regular review and updating of national dietary guidelines and associated clinical guidelines to reflect new and emerging evidence.
  • Continued uptake of the Health Star Rating system, as well as refinement to ensure it provides shoppers with the most pertinent information.