You can’t advertise that

Monica Wilkie

03 May 2019 | Ideas@TheCentre

The Queensland government has announced it will ban junk food advertising at government-owned sites such as train stations and bus stops.

The Brisbane Times reported, “Foods will be ruled in or out based on their salt, sugar and fat content”. This is a perfectly common sense definition of junk food. Or is it?

Recently, Transport for London banned the advertising of junk food across their network. They defined junk food as drinks or food “…high in fat, sugar and salt…” Sound familiar?

This definition has the London censors in a bit of an (advertising approved) pickle.

An organic home-delivery service, Farmdrop, had to remove butter, jam, eggs and bacon from their advertisements because it did not comply with the new rules.

Even more absurdly, an ad for Wimbledon showing the event’s iconic strawberries and cream was also deemed a violation.

However, an advertisement for a high-fat, high-salt curry was allowed because it contained words, not images.

Foods generally regarded as healthy could easily fall foul of the new UK standards. Olive oil is high in fat but is an integral part of the popular Mediterranean diet — a diet whose health benefits have been spruiked by The British Heart Foundation, and Diabetes UK.

Moreover, nutrition advice is constantly changing. The day of the week seems to determine whether eggs are good or bad for you, likewise for the health benefits of red wine.

Banning advertisements based on a vague definition of ‘junk food’ is nuts. Oh, wait… nuts are high in salt, so probably not allowed.

Perhaps Queensland will not succumb to the same problems as London. But considering their remarkably similar definitions of ‘junk food’, we should be concerned about parallel arbitrary and nonsensical outcomes.

To adapt Churchill’s phrase, a state trying to ban itself to good health is like a man standing in a McDonalds ordering a salad.

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