NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #childhood #obesity : How #junkfood brands befriend kids on #socialmedia

ABS Overweight and obesity

  • In 2014-15, 63.4% of Australian adults were overweight or obese (11.2 million people). This is similar to the prevalence of overweight and obesity in 2011-12 (62.8%) and an increase since 1995 (56.3%).
  • Around one in four (27.4%) children aged 5-17 years were overweight or obese, similar to 2011-12 (25.7%).

ABS National Health Survey: First Results, 2014-15  

Download this graphic as a poster HERE


”  We examined how six “high-fat-sugar-salt” food brands approached consumers at an interactive, direct and social level online in 2012 to 2013 (although the practice continues).

If a stranger offered a child free lollies in return for their picture, the parent would justifiably be angry. When this occurs on Facebook, they may not even realise it’s happening.

We found food brands being presented online and interactively in four main ways: as “the prize”, “the entertainer”, the “social enabler” and as “a person”.

Using Facebook, advergames and other online platforms, food marketers can create deeper relationships with kids than ever before. Going far beyond a televised advertisement, they are able to create an entire “brand ecosystem” around the child online.

The latest National Health Survey found that around one in four Australian kids aged 5-17 were overweight or obese.

Food marketers promoting unhealthy options to kids online should be held to account.”

From the Conversation Four ways junk food brands befriend kids online

” Australian households spend the majority (58 per cent) of their food budget on discretionary or ‘junk’ foods and drinks, including take-aways (14 per cent) and sugar-sweetened beverages (4 per cent), according to new research.

Ill health due to poor diet is not shared equally, with some population groups, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people who are disadvantaged socioeconomically, more at risk.”

Professor Lee, an Accredited Practising Dietician see article 2 Aussies spending most of food budget on junk food

Picture above from WHO Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, 2016-2030

Read NACCHO 20 Articles on Obesity

Read NACCHO 20 Articles on Nutrition Healthy Foods

Article 1 Four ways junk food brands befriend kids online

If a stranger offered a child free lollies in return for their picture, the parent would justifiably be angry. When this occurs on Facebook, they may not even realise it’s happening.

There was outrage after a recent report in The Australian suggesting that the social media company can identify when young people feel emotions like “anxious”, “nervous” or “stupid”. Although Facebook has denied offering tools to target users based on their feelings, the fact is that a variety of brands have been advertising to young people online for many years.

We’re all familiar with traditional print and television advertising, but persuasion is harder for children and parents to detect online. From using cartoon characters to embody the brand, to games that combine advertising with interactive content (“advergames”), kids are exposed to a pervasive ecosystem of marketing on social media.

The blurring of the line between advertising, entertainment and socialising has never been greater, or more difficult to fight.

Kids are vulnerable to junk food advertising

Junk food advertising aimed at both adults and children is nothing new, but research shows that young people are particularly vulnerable.

Their minds are more susceptible to persuasion, given that the part of their brain that controls impulsivity and decision-making is not always fully developed until early adulthood. As a result, children are likely to respond impulsively to interactive and attractive content.

While the issue of advertising junk food to children through television and other broadcast media gets a lot of attention, less is understood about how children are consuming such marketing online.

How brands interact online

We examined how six “high-fat-sugar-salt” food brands approached consumers at an interactive, direct and social level online in 2012 to 2013 (although the practice continues).

Analysing content on official Facebook pages, website advergames and free branded apps, we coded brand placements as primary, secondary, direct or implied brand mentions.

While the content may not be explicitly targeted at children, the colours, skill level of the games and the prizes are attractive to younger people. The responses on Facebook in particular show that young consumers often interact with these posts, sharing comments and reposting.

We found food brands being presented online and interactively in four main ways: as “the prize”, “the entertainer”, the “social enabler” and as “a person”.

1. The prize

The fast food company Hungry Jack’s Shake and Win app has been offered since 2012. By “shaking” the app, it tells you, using your smartphone GPS, which Hungry Jack’s outlet is closest and where you can redeem your “free” offer or discount.

In this way, it combines several interactive elements to push the user towards immediate consumption with the brand coded as a reward.

Hungry Jack’s Shake and Win app screens captured on May 17th 2017. iTunes/Hungry Jacks

2. The entertainer

Free branded video game apps or advergames are also used to engage young consumers, disguising advertising as entertainment.

In the 2012 Chupa Chups game Lol-a-Coaster (which is not currently available on the Australian iTunes store), for example, we found a lollipop appeared as part of game play up to 200 times in one minute. The game is simple to play, full of fun primary colours and sounds, and the player is socialised to associate the brand with positive emotion.

Chuck’s Lol-A-Coaster: an interactive game for Chupa Chups.

3. The social enabler

Brands often leverage Facebook’s “tagging” capability to spread their message, adding a social element.

When a company suggests that you tag your family and friends on Facebook with their favourite product flavour, for example, the young consumer is not only using the brand to connect with others, but letting the brand connect to their own Facebook network. For a brand like Pringles, this increases their reach on social media.

A post on the Pringles’ Facebook page on October 13th, 2016. Facebook/Pringles

4. The person

Some brands also use a humanised character, like Chupa Chups’s Chuck, to voice the brand and post messages to consumers on Facebook.

Often this character interacts with the consumer in a very human way, asking them about their everyday lives, aspirations and fears. This creates the possibility of a long-term brand relationship and brand loyalty.

A Chupa Chups post on September 2nd, 2014 showing the character, Chuck. Facebook/Chupa Chups

Brands need to clean up their act

Using Facebook, advergames and other online platforms, food marketers can create deeper relationships with kids than ever before. Going far beyond a televised advertisement, they are able to create an entire “brand ecosystem” around the child online.

The latest National Health Survey found that around one in four Australian kids aged 5-17 were overweight or obese. Food marketers promoting unhealthy options to kids online should be held to account.

In Australia, the food marketing industry is mostly self-regulating. Brands are meant to abide by a code of practice which, if breached, holds them account through a complaints-based system.

While some companies have also pledged, via an Australian Food and Grocery Council code, not to target child audiences using interactive games unless offering a healthy choice, the current system is too slow and weak to be a real deterrent. That needs to change.

While online food marketing may be cheap for the corporations, the price that society pays when it comes to issues such as childhood obesity is immeasurable.

Article 2 Aussies spending most of food budget on junk food

According to Professor Amanda Lee, who is presenting her research at the Dietitians Association of Australia’s National Conference in Hobart this week, healthy diets are more affordable than current (unhealthy) diets – costing households 15 per cent less.

But according to Australian Health Survey data, few Australians consume diets consistent with national recommendations.

“Less than four per cent of Australians eat adequate quantities of healthy foods, yet more than 35 per cent of energy (kilojoule) intake comes from discretionary foods and drinks, which provide little nutrition – and this is hurting our health and our hip pocket,” said Professor Lee, from the Sax Institute.

She said the figures are particularly worrying because poor diet is the leading preventable cause of ill health in Australia and globally, contributing to almost 18 per cent of deaths in Australia, while obesity costs the nation $58 billion a year.

Her research found that, although healthy diets cost less than current (unhealthy) diets, people in low income households need to spend around a third (31 per cent) of their disposable income to eat a healthy diet, so food security is a real problem in these households.

She added that policies that increase the price differential between healthy and unhealthy diets could further compromise food security in vulnerable groups.

“At the moment, basic healthy foods like fresh vegetables and fruit are except from the GST, but there’s been talk of extending this to all foods. If this were to happen, the cost of a healthy diet would become unaffordable for low-income families,” said Lee.

Lee said Australia needs a coordinated approach to nutrition policy – a call echoed by the Dietitians Association of Australian, the Public Health Association of Australia, the Heart Foundation and Nutrition Australia.

NACCHO real good news:Health success at Aputula Community Store in Central Australia


Lorraine Stuart and her daughter Samantha with the fruit basket they won in one of Aputula Community Store’s weekly draws.

Published: Indigenous

Healthy food and drink is becoming a more popular choice in the remote Northern Territory community of Aputula thanks to some creative initiatives from the local community store.

The Australian Government supports the operation of community stores as part of Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory, for their contribution to closing the gap in Indigenous health outcomes.

“The one which is the cornerstone of what we do, and makes everybody pretty excited in the community, is our fruit and vege promotion,” Aputula Community Store manager Nigel Pratt said.

“When the people buy fruit and vege they get an AFL player card. They save up those player cards and that allows them to win various levels of prizes.”

Reducing the consumption of sugary drinks has been another big focus for the store, and Nigel proudly posts monthly statistics on the Aputula Community Store Facebook page to show how the campaign is working.

“When you come into the shop it’s not far to walk to the right to go to the healthy fridge and get diet soft drink for $1.30, but if you want to get the sugary ones you’ve got to go on the walk of shame to the back of the store and pick up your cans of regular soft drink for $3.50,” Nigel said.

“It’s gradually made people turn to the right instead of going to the left on the walk of shame.”

The Aputula Community Store Committee is also working closely with the local health service to help families make the right food choices. Healthier products are given a green label featuring a happy Aboriginal family, and are sold at a lower price.

“People can look at it and go, well that’s green, it’s got the Aboriginal family, it’s got to be good and it’s got to be well priced for us,” Nigel said.

Nigel said community stores are ideal for promoting positive change because they are such a focal point of remote communities.

“It’s not as though someone goes to their shop once a week, fills up a massive trolley full of gear and doesn’t visit the supermarket again until a week’s time,” Nigel said.

“People come in six, seven, eight times a day because every time they do there’ll be someone else to meet up with and talk to.”

National obesity strategy a ‘wasteful failure’ Professor Zimmet

Big Mac

In 2009, the federal government’s preventive health  taskforce proposed measures to combat obesity, including increased taxes on  unhealthy food,  a ban on junk food marketing to children, exercise programs in  schools and workplaces and an urban planning overhaul to boost physical  activity.

Should warning labels be on  products other than cigarettes (introduced 1 December 2012)

With obesity, we are where we were with tobacco about 50  years ago.

In a speech to be delivered at a health summit in Canberra  on Monday 3 December , Professor Zimmet, director emeritus at Melbourne’s Baker IDI Heart  and Diabetes Institute, argued there is no political will to reduce  obesity.

By Jill Stark The AGE

THE political response to Australia’s obesity epidemic has  been a ”failure”,  and $49 million spent on healthy lifestyle advertising  campaigns was a ”waste of taxpayers’ money”, a key government adviser  claims.

Professor Paul Zimmet, a member of former prime minister  Kevin Rudd’s preventive health taskforce, says the government’s strategy to  fight the fat is ”weak and fragmented”.

He says he would not have agreed to be on the taskforce –  set up to find ways to reduce the burden of alcohol, tobacco and obesity – if he  had known most of its obesity recommendations would be ignored.

In a speech to be delivered at a health summit in Canberra  on Monday 3 December , Professor Zimmet, director emeritus at Melbourne’s Baker IDI Heart  and Diabetes Institute, will argue there is no political will to reduce  obesity.


While congratulating the government for its action on  tobacco control,  he claims it has taken the ”easy option” on obesity, with  ineffective social marketing campaigns.

”The government seems to not have the stomach for obesity  prevention. What is being done at present is fragmented and weak and does not  constitute a serious attempt to tackle the problem,” Professor Zimmet said.

”This is one of the biggest drivers of disease – it  drives type two diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and certain cancers. It’s a  huge load on the community so it’s very disappointing there is no national  effective strategy, despite the taskforce making it very clear that it was the  whole package that was important, not isolated bits and pieces.”

In 2009, the federal government’s preventive health  taskforce proposed measures to combat obesity, including increased taxes on  unhealthy food,  a ban on junk food marketing to children, exercise programs in  schools and workplaces and an urban planning overhaul to boost physical  activity.

But Professor Zimmet said the measures had not been  adopted and money had been squandered on social marketing campaigns such as the  ”Swap It, Don’t Stop It” and ”Measure Up” healthy lifestyle campaigns.

”To spend more than $40 million on social marketing  campaigns without having an integrated strategy is a waste of money. It’s  achieved very little because campaigns like that can’t be done in isolation  without addressing better parks, …  improved food access, addressing indigenous  diabetes and heart disease rates. So really the whole approach to the problem  has been a failure.”

Fellow preventive health taskforce member Mike Daube,  director of the Public Health Advocacy Institute, is  also disappointed by the  government’s lack of action on obesity.

”With obesity, we are where we were with tobacco about 50  years ago. We’re fat, we’re getting fatter and the junk food industry is  immensely powerful, so strong public education needs to be allied with tough  measures, such as dealing with food advertising or food formulation,” Professor  Daube said. ”Having said that, the government has been sensational on tobacco  and you can understand them not wanting to take on every major industry at  once.”

Professor Zimmet will be among a range of speakers at  Monday’s summit, ”Obesity: Changing the Rhetoric, Solutions for the Future”,  organised by newly formed public health lobby group Obesity Australia.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said figures show  childhood obesity rates have stabilised.

”The success Australia has experienced in reducing  tobacco has been the result of 30 years of co-ordinated effort. A similar  long-term view is required to address obesity,” he said.


Read more:

Improved community access to healthy food in Northern Territory

Federal Government  J O I N T   M E D I A   R E L E A S E

The Government is investing $40.9 million over ten years in the expanded  stores licensing scheme

The Minister for Indigenous Health Warren Snowdon (above)

The Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Jenny  Macklin

Stores licensing will now apply to more stores in the Northern Territory,  after the Australian Government finalised plans for its expansion.

As part of Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory, stores licensing is  being expanded to include all stores outside of major centres that service  Aboriginal communities, not just stores located in or close to Aboriginal  communities.

Under the changes the Northern Territory is defined as a food security area,  apart from major centres that are specifically excluded.

The Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Jenny  Macklin said the changes mean stores in the food security area will need a  licence to operate if they are an important source of food, drink or grocery  items to an Aboriginal community.

“The Government recently engaged with key businesses and organisations in the  Northern Territory to finalise the new areas that stores licensing will apply  to,” Ms Macklin said.

“Due to strong competition, higher levels of consumer awareness and the  variety of food, drink and grocery outlets, the expanded stores licensing will  not apply in the major centres of Darwin, Palmerston, Alice Springs, Tennant  Creek, Katherine and Nhulunbuy.

“Licensing focuses on all aspects of a store’s operation, including on the  range and promotion of healthy food, the quality of retail management,  governance and financial practices.

“Aboriginal people have told us that store licensing has improved the quality  and availability of fresh, healthy food, and is having a positive impact on  their communities,” Ms Macklin said.

The Minister for Indigenous Health Warren Snowdon said that a survey released  last year showed Aboriginal people said that children are now healthier, happier  and more active than three years ago.

“The Government wants to continue to improve the availability of fresh and  healthy food in stores, as well as help stores to be sustainable by improving  governance and retail practices,” Mr Snowdon said.

The new scheme will support stores to meet the requirements of store  licensing. This may include things like providing financial support where  necessary to improve storage, make essential repairs and install systems to help  keep track of stock and sales.

The Government will also work with the committees of Aboriginal owned stores  and support them to provide strong governance and leadership for their  stores.

Stores in the expanded area that need to hold a licence will be brought into  the scheme over a period of time and will be contacted about the changes well  before licensing assessments occur.

The new scheme will also provide for a wider range of penalties for licence  breaches.

The Government is investing $40.9 million over ten years in the expanded  stores licensing scheme.

Senator for the Northern Territory Trish Crossin said healthy food was  critical to providing children with the best start in life.

“The Australian Government wants all children to get the best start on life.

Healthy food also helps reduce the chances of chronic illness for people later  in life,” Senator Crossin said

Brace yourself for a fatter, unhealthier Queensland after health promotion cuts

Amanda Lee 

From The Conversation

Queensland appears intent on dismantling its public and preventive health services. Health Minister Lawrence Springborg last week outlined the rationale for getting rid of more than 150 jobs in nutrition, health promotion and Indigenous health, arguing previous “campaigns” and “messaging” around obesity were “piecemeal” and had “grossly failed”.

The plan now, the minister argued, is to focus on a new centrally-driven and high-profile approach.

On the surface that doesn’t sound so bad.  But even a cursory glance at the details suggests something else is going on.

Of particular concern is the Queensland government’s call for the Commonwealth to invest more in preventive health through the Australia-wide Medicare Local network. This may be a bold attempt to shift costs, or a fundamental misunderstanding of what preventive health is all about – or both.

Although it’s good to see Minister Springborg confirming a commitment to “health prevention campaigns” and “evidence-based medicine”, questions remain as to what this really means for public health in Queensland.

Tackling obesity

One challenge working in the area of obesity is that most people, including decision makers, eat and move, and so are self-informed experts. If this was brain surgery, expert briefings on the evidence would be sought before decisions were made. But addressing obesity is more complex.

To inform decisions about obesity intervention, the scientific evidence needs to be assessed at three levels. Firstly to identify whether something should be done, then to investigate what should be done, and finally to inform how something should be done.

At the first level, there is little disagreement about the magnitude of the problem; something definitely needs to be done about obesity – and urgently. The epidemic of overweight and obesity is sweeping most developed economies. In Australia, the prevalencehas doubled over the past 30 years – it’s now above 60% in adults and around 25% in children.

Obesity is bad news for the health system. In Queensland, excess body weight has now overtaken cigarette smoking as the single greatest risk factor contributing to the burden of disease. In 2008, the health system cost of obesity was A$391 million, with an additional cost of about A$9.96bn in lost well-being across all sectors throughout the state.

But the good news is that most obesity-related conditions are preventable. That such an enormous expense and burden is avoidable, must surely be of interest to any government concerned about its economic outlook, and the well-being and health of its people.

What should be done about it?

To answer, it’s necessary to look at both causes and treatment outcomes.

A surprisingly small daily excess in energy intake is sufficient to account for the weight gain seen in Australians over time.

It’s now clear that changes to our socioeconomic environment are responsible for the current epidemic. These changes actually make it easier for all of us (but particularly those who have limited resources and opportunities) to consume more energy-dense and nutrient-poor foods and drinks, to eat too much, to sit longer and move less.

Being overweight is a normal physiological response to an abnormal “obesogenic” environment. And this is exactly why losing weight is so hard – and keeping it off is harder still.

Studies showconsistently that just telling people to change their behaviour is bound to fail. Generally, mass media advertising increases awareness, but only leads to behaviour change when supported by complementary policies, programs and services provided within the community.

To reduce obesity, we need to make it easier for people to make healthier choices. robnguyen

How can we achieve healthy weight at a population level?

Strategically, the best approach to obesity prevention involves regulatory reform. This has been demonstrated repeatedly in other public health areas such as infectious disease, traffic safety and tobacco control. However, there is little evidence that any governments in Australia currently want to go down this path to combat obesity.

So at a more pragmatic, operational level, the evidence points to two main areas:

  1. Counteract the gross misinformation about food, dieting and exercise so rampant in our society and, at the same time,
  2. Influence sectors beyond health to improve the social and physical environment to make it easier for people to make healthier choices.

And that is exactly what the dismissed nutrition, Indigenous and health promotion workforce was doing in Queensland.

Among many projects, they worked to improve the food supply in child care centres, schools, workplaces, health facilities and remote communities, and encouraged greater physical activity through urban planning. They ran effective, group-based behaviour modification programs to support adoption of healthy habits.

In areas such as mental health and infant feeding, they developed evidence-based training materials and resources to help lighten the workload of clinicians. And their efforts were having traction and providing cost- effective health outcomes for the state.

In 2007, the rate of measured (rather than self-reported) healthy weight among children in Queensland was 2% to 3% higher than in other states where comparable data was available. This equates to 3,000 less children becoming overweight per year, and 1,200 fewer future cases of Type 2 Diabetes per year by 2015.

At its peak, the multi-strategy Go for 2 and 5 fruit and vegetable promotion program exceeded targets, resulting in an additional turnover of A$9.8 million of fresh produce per month in Brisbane alone, and a technical saving of A$55 million per year to the ill-health system state-wide.

Health promotion activities work to improve rates of breast feeding. Ania i Artur Nowaccy

Since 2004, adult physical activity participation rates had increased by over 34%.

And since 2003, rates of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life had quadrupled, and the proportion of infants breastfed at one and six months had increased substantially.

These results demonstrate that preventive health services provided the front line, indeed the vanguard, of medical ill-health services – helping to reduce waiting lists and increase the likely effectiveness of clinical treatment.

What happens next?

Within the health sector, preventive health interventions to address obesity must be applied across the whole continuum – not only in primary care settings like Medicare Locals. But most importantly, concerted, sustained effort is needed beyond the health sector, with non-government organisations, industry and all members of the community.

So, fingers crossed that the promised new “campaigns” will provide more than expensive advertising telling us all to lose weight. And fingers crossed that Medicare Locals will have the resources and abilities to foster partnerships to improve the toxic “obesogenic” environments that continually undermine health messages.

Because, if not, we will definitely lose the war against obesity and growing rates of chronic disease in Queensland. All available evidence tells us that more investment is needed in preventive health – not cuts.

Indigenous (bush foods) added to nutrition panel calculator

Foods Standard Australia New Zealand  has added 14 new Indigenous foods to the Nutrition Panel Calculator (NPC). The NPC, which now has data for 2533 foods, is used by industry to provide nutrition information on food labels.

The addition of these new foods will allow food manufacturers to calculate the average nutrient content of their bush food products and prepare a Nutrition Information Panel (NIP) based on up-to-date nutrient data.

FSANZ was able to provide the new data thanks to a joint research project between the Rural Industry Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) and the Australian Native Food Industry (ANFIL).

The new foods added are:

  • Lemon myrtle (Backhousia citriodora), leaf, dried, ground (also known as Lemon ironwood and Lemon scented myrtle).
  • Bush tomato (Solanum centrale), fruit, dried (also known as Desert raisin and Akudjera).
  • Kakadu plum (Terminalia ferdinandiana), fruit (also known as Gubinje, Billy Goat Plum and Wild Plum).
  • Finger lime (Citrus australasica), fruit.
  • Desert lime (Citrus glauca), fruit.
  • Anise myrtle (Syzygium anisatum), leaf, dried, ground (also known as Ringwood and Aniseed Myrtle).
  • Native pepper (Tasmannia lanceolata), berry, dried (also known as Tasmanian pepperberry and Mountain pepperberry).
  • Native pepper (Tasmannia lanceolata), leaf, dried, ground (also known as Tasmanian pepperleaf).
  • Lemon aspen (Acronychia acidula or Acronychia subarosa), fruit juice.
  • Satinash (Syzygium fibrosum), fruit (also known as Small leaf lilli pilli).
  • Saltbush (Atriplex nummularia), leaf, fresh.
  • River mint (Mentha australis), leaf, fresh (also known as Native mint).
  • Sea Parsley (Apium prostatum), leaf, fresh.
  • Olida (Eucalyptus olida), leaf, dried, ground (also known as Strawberry gum and Forest Berry Herb).

The NPC database 2011 files have also been updated to include nutrient data for these bush foods, which will also allow users to import the food and nutrient information directly into their own software, rather than use the calculator.


Olympic junk food sponsorship supporting sport or funding fat

What does the Olympics stand for: is it the inspiration for a healthier, sportier community?

Or is it just another way to sell junk food and booze to an ever-fatter, ever-drunker population of couch potatoes?

Reproduced read the full article from the CONVERSATION HERE

Jamie Oliver criticism of Beckham article here

Out thanks to MELISSA SWEET CROAKEY for making us aware of this article

The high ideals in the Olympic Charter include “to oppose any political or commercial abuse of sport and athletes”. Organisers of the London Olympics say they are using the games as a springboard to promote physical activity in the community. Former Olympic hero Sebastian Coe, now Chair of the London Olympics Organising Committee, tells us that, “London’s vision is to reach young people around the world.  To connect them with the inspirational power of the games”.

The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) marketing documents spruik the massive reach and influence of the Olympic Games and advertising related to the Olympics. Nonetheless, according to the IOC, one of the “fundamental objectives of Olympic marketing” is “to control and limit the commercialisation of the Olympic Games”.

It is hard to reconcile the objective of controlling commercialisation with the reality that the Olympics’ “Top Sponsors” include Coca-Cola and McDonalds.

McDonalds is “the official restaurant of the Olympic Games”, and is already engaged in massive television, print, billboard and online promotion linking its products with the best in sport. McDonalds has even recently been reported as trying to prevent anyone else from selling chips at Olympic venues.

Ironically, the Olympic Games organisers themselves clearly recognise that this is a totally unacceptable association. A special question on their website asks “Why is McDonalds a sponsor?”. But there is no rationale or justification other than that “McDonalds has been an ‘official sponsor of the Olympic Games’ since 1976”.

Coca-Cola has been associated with the Olympics since 1928, telling us that “The Coca-Cola company shares the Olympic ideals”. Coca-Cola has developed its own “Olympic Anthem”. In Australia – as elsewhere around the world – it is associating Olympic athletes with its promotions. It has even, in association with its Powerade brand, published a “Nutrition for Athletes” guide. Nobody could doubt that kids as well as adults are being targeted – Coca Cola’s own marketing materials include activities and competitions for children, alongside promotions that make full and creative use of social media.

We can expect further massive promotion of the association between the Olympics and junk food from McDonalds and Coca-Cola as the Games approach. They and other junk food companies have no doubt already spent millions buying advertising time during the telecasts. But they are not alone. Cadbury is “the official treat provider of the London 2012 Olympic Games” and an “Olympic partner”, while Cadbury subsidiary company Trebor is “a provider and supplier”. Both are already promoting their association with the Olympics through marketing materials, such as the Cadbury Australia “Cadbury Catch Up at the Olympics” competition.

All this at a time when obesity is one of our most pressing public health threats. More than 60% of adults and a quarter of our children are overweight or obese.

It gets worse. At a time when there is justified community concern about the impacts of alcohol, and particularly a culture of drinking to get drunk among our young people, the Olympics are directly associated with alcohol promotion.

Heineken UK is the “official lager supplier and sponsor of London 2012”. Heineken is also active in all media, including online,and through massive outdoor displays that will presumably be magically invisible to children.Internationally, Heineken is hoping “to reach untapped audiences in emerging markets through its sponsorship of the Olympic Games”.

The only British Parliamentary criticism thus far of the Olympic/alcohol association appears to be from a muddle-headed Liberal Democrat MP, Greg Mulholland, whose criticism is that the sponsor should be a British brewer rather than a Dutch company, because beer is “the UK’s Britain’s national drink”. Amazingly, Mr. Mulholland is a former Health spokesperson for his party.

The Bibendum wine company is also associated with the Olympics. Wines supplied by Bibendum have been nominated as the first “official” Olympic wines since the modern games began in 1896 and will be sold at almost all Olympic venues (except Hampden Park in Scotland – which given the Scottish penchant for alcohol is probably just as well). Bibendum, which sees the Games as “a fantastic trading opportunity”, has even “assembled a dedicated Olympics logistics planning team” to ensure drinkers have ready access to its products.

The IOC tell us on their website that they aim “to control sponsorship programs to ensure that partnerships are compatible with the Olympic ideals”. While the Olympic Games were associated with tobacco promotion long after the harmful effects of smoking were known beyond doubt, the IOC now has a clear policy that it will not accept commercial associations with tobacco products.

But the IOC policy on alcohol remains at best bizarre. The policy excludes “alcoholic beverages (other than beer and wine)”. So we conclude that it is inappropriate to associate the best in sport with spirits, but not with other alcoholic products.

There is no conceivable justification for a policy that excludes promotion of spirits, but not beer and wine. The IOC’s first “Fundamental Principle of Olympism specifically refers to “the educational value of good example (and) social responsibility”. Why would the IOC not want to protect children and young people from exposure to promotion for beer and wine as well as for spirits and other alcoholic products?

The Olympic Games are a wonderful celebration of the best in sport. Surely the IOC can do better than permit this global celebration of sporting excellence to promote products whose consumption is associated with some of the greatest threats to our health and wellbeing.

If previous Olympic Games are a precedent, media coverage of the Olympics will be associated with a tsunami of direct and indirect promotion for junk food and alcohol.

By the time the next Olympics come around, perhaps the IOC will have taken a more responsible approach to promotion of its wonderful product, and will consign all association of sporting success with alcohol and junk food to the promotional graveyard where tobacco sponsorship now resides.

Disclosure Statement

Mike Daube is Professor of Health Policy at Curtin University, and Director of the Public Health Advocacy Institute of WA and the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth.