Aim: Any regulation of food marketing to children requires clear definitions of the types of foods considered inappropriate and subject to restrictions. The aim of this research was to examine the commitments made by signatory companies of the Australian Food and Grocery Council’s Responsible Marketing to Children Initiative regarding the types of foods considered appropriate for marketing to children.
Methods: Nutrient criteria developed by signatory food companies were examined by comparing (i) thresholds set for negative nutrients (saturated fats, added sugars and sodium) and total energy to two existing nutrient criteria: Healthy Kids Association and the National Heart Foundation Tick, and (ii) the types of foods considered appropriate for marketing to children, if applying companies’ commitments or the product’s nutrient profile using the Food Standards Australia and New Zealand nutrient profiling tool.
Results: All five company-developed nutrient criteria examined specified higher thresholds for negative nutrients compared with existing criteria, and were more likely to report negative nutrients per serve rather than per 100 g. When applying company commitments, 57% more energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods and beverages were considered appropriate for marketing to children, compared with nutrient profiling.
Conclusion: Food industry commitments regarding the types of foods considered appropriate for marketing to children do not adequately restrict the marketing for energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods. It is recommended food manufacturers who commit to restricting their marketing of unhealthy foods to children use a standardised, independent nutrient profiling tool based on per 100 g/100 mL to determine the appropriateness of foods and beverages for marketing to children.