Objective: There has been international concern over the balance of television advertising for healthy and less-healthy foods to which children and adolescents are exposed. This study examined the extent to which 9-17 year old New Zealanders were exposed to advertising for different food groups over a year and compared New Zealand rates of advertising with a 13-country study.
Method: 'People meter' data collected over three months--May and September 1995 and February 1996--and food advertising from a sample week of television during hours when children were likely to be watching were also examined. Comparison was made with a similar 1989 South Australian study and an international study covering 13 countries.
Results: Both the exposure estimated for a year and the opportunities for exposure during the sample week were highest for sweet snacks, drinks, fast food/takeaways and breakfast cereals. There were very low levels for fruit, vegetables, and meat/fish/eggs. Water was not advertised in any sample month. Comparisons with the 13-country study showed New Zealand had the third-highest rate of food advertising, the highest rate of confectionery and drinks advertising, and the second-highest rate of restaurant advertising which included fast food restaurants.
Conclusion: Current patterns of food advertising pose a conflict of interest between public health and commercial interests. Regulation of food advertising may be needed to address this in order to improve future health.