Aim: To determine parents’ attitudes and awareness of food marketing to children.
Method: Computer-assisted telephone interviews of a random sample of 400 parents of children aged 5–17 years and who were the main grocery buyers for that household, living in NSW, Australia. The main outcome measures included parental awareness and attitudes relating to food marketing to children, the perceived role of government versus industry in food marketing regulation and children’s food purchasing requests as a result of exposure to food marketing.
Results: The majority of parents were concerned about food marketing to children, with the highest level of concern registered for the positioning of food at supermarket checkouts (83% of parents concerned). Parental awareness of certain non-broadcast media food marketing (e.g. print, radio and premium offers) to children was low. The majority of parents (91%) did not trust the industry to protect children from food marketing. Most parents (81%) believed that the government should restrict the use of non-broadcast media marketing of unhealthy food to children. Parents of younger children were more likely to report that their child asked for advertised food products, compared with parents of adolescents (65% and 48% respectively, P < 0.0001).
Conclusions: Reductions in point of sale food promotions would be welcomed by parents. Raising community awareness of the nonbroadcast media channels used to market food to children is important as part of building family and policy efforts to limit exposure to this otherwise relatively unregulated media environment.