Objective: Food marketing is linked to childhood obesity through its influence on children's food preferences, purchase requests and food consumption. We aimed to describe the volume and nature of outdoor food advertisements and factors associated with outdoor food advertising in the area surrounding Australian primary schools.
Methods: Forty primary schools in Sydney and Wollongong were selected using random sampling within population density and socio-economic strata. The area within a 500 m radius of each school was scanned and advertisements coded according to pre-defined criteria, including: food or non-food product advertisement, distance from the school, size and location. Food advertisements were further categorised as core foods, non-core foods and miscellaneous drinks (tea and coffee).
Results: The number of advertisements identified was 9,151, of which 2,286 (25%) were for food. The number of non-core food advertisements was 1,834, this accounted for 80% of food advertisements. Soft drinks and alcoholic beverages were the food products most commonly advertised around primary schools (24% and 22% of food advertisements, respectively). Non-core food products were twice as likely to be advertised close to a primary school (95 non-core food advertisements per km(2) within 250 m vs. 46 advertisements per km(2) within 250-500 m).
Conclusions: The density of non-core food advertisements within 500 m of primary schools, and the potential for repeated exposure of children to soft drink and alcoholic beverage advertisements in particular, highlights the need for outdoor food marketing policy intervention.
Implications: Outdoor advertising is an important food marketing tool that should be considered in future debates on regulation of food marketing to children.