Food & beverage advertising
Australia has a stringent self-regulatory system for food and beverage advertising to adults and children. Self-regulatory Codes and Initiatives that apply to food and beverage advertising are:
- AANA Code of Ethics
- AANA Food and Beverages Advertising and Marketing Communications Code
- AANA Code for Advertising and Marketing Communications to Children
- AFGC Responsible Children's Marketing Initiative (RCMI) for of the Australian Food and Beverage Industry
- AFGC Australian Quick Service Restaurant Industry Initiative for Responsible Advertising and Marketing to Children (QSRI)
These Codes and Initiatives have been negotiated with government, industry and advertisers to ensure appropriate advertising of food choices. Costs to handle consumer complaints are borne by industry.
The AANA Food and Beverages Advertising and Marketing Communications Code aims to ensure that advertisers develop and maintain a high sense of social responsibility in advertising food and beverage products.
It covers a range of provisions, including:
- Truthful and honest claims
- Not undermining the importance of a healthy lifestyle
- Health and nutrition claims
- Taste and preference claims
- Claims relating to characteristics of the product
- Advertising to children
As of June 2019, an additional Section was added to the Food Code. This requires that all food and beverage advertisers who choose to direct their advertising primarily to children or who place their advertising in children’s media must also comply with the Australian Food and Grocery Council’s (AFGC) Initiatives, even if they are not signatories.
The AFGC Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative (RCMI) and the AFGC Quick Service Restaurant Initiative for Responsible Advertising and Marketing to Children (QSRI) have additional provisions relating to advertising food and beverage products to children. These initiatives initially only applied to signatories and aim to ensure that only healthier foods are advertised to children and when they are advertised they include messages regarding nutrition and exercise.
The QSRI defines children as 14 years and younger and the RCMI defines children as 12 and under.
Both Initiatives include principles around:
- S1.1 Advertising and Marketing Messaging
Ads for food and beverage products must represent healthier dietary choices and reference or be in the context of a healthy lifestyle which encourages good dietary habits and physical activity.
- S1.2 Product placement
Ads for food or beverage products must not be placed in a program or editorial comment directed at children, unless consistent with S1.1.
- S1.3 Use of products in interactive games
Any interactive game directed to children which includes food or beverage products must be consistent with S1.1.
- S1.4 Advertising in schools, pre-schools and day care centres
Signatories must not advertise in schools, pre-schools and day care centres, except where specifically requested by or agreed with, the school administration for educational or informational purposes.
The QSRI also includes the following principles:
- S1.5 Children’s sporting events
Signatories must not give away food or beverage products to children as awards or prizes at children’s sporting events unless those products meet the nutritional criteria.
- S1.6 Availability of nutritional information
Nutritional profile information must be available on company website and upon request.
- S1.7 On-pack nutritional Labelling
Nutritional profile information must be available on the packaging wherever possible.
Signatories to the RCMI and QSRI are listed at www.afgc.org.au.
The Healthy Choices Arbiter
Under both Initiatives, an independent arbiter will advise Ad Standards whether the product or meal advertised represents a ‘healthier choice’ (in the case of the QSRI) or ‘healthy dietary choices’ (in the case of the RCMI).
The independent arbiter for the AFGC Initiatives is Associate Professor Jon Buckley, Director, Nutritional Physiology Research Centre, University of South Australia.
Complaints under the AFGC Initiatives should be sent to Ad Standards. Ad Standards will forward these complaints to either or both the Healthy Choices Arbiter and the Ad Standards Community Panel.
Under these Initiatives the Healthy Choices Arbiter will consider the complaint in relation to whether the product constitutes a healthy choice based on the standards nominated by the company in their action plan (individual company action plans are available on each company’s website). Further information on company action plans for non-signatories is available in the AANA Food and Beverage Advertising: Industry Practice Note.
Complaints to the Community Panel under these Initiatives will also be assessed in relation to the AANA Code of Ethics, the AANA Code for Advertising and Marketing Communications to Children, the AANA Food and Beverages Advertising and Marketing Communication Code. If the complaint raises issues under these Codes, the Community Panel will make a decision as to whether to uphold or dismiss the complaints.
Complainants are informed of the decisions made by the Community Panel and by the Healthy Choices Arbiter and are sent a copy of the case report. The case report is provided to the AFGC and published on Ad Standards' website.
To make a complaint related to food and beverage advertising to children you can use our online complaints form.