• Celebrity cook and host of Hugh’s Fat Fight, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (centre) celebrating the nutritional goodness in vegetables. (Supplied )
Host of Hugh's Fat Fight, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, is over seeing so many advertisements for junk food and wants to know – why aren’t there more adverts promoting the power of vegetables?
Yasmin Noone

1 Oct 2018 - 11:30 AM  UPDATED 3 Oct 2018 - 12:33 PM

We currently live in a food environment saturated with advertisements for junk food and take-away meals.

Recent research, funded by the Heart Foundation, shows that children are being exposed to twice as much unhealthy food advertising as they are exposed to healthy food advertising.

The study, published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health earlier this year, found that children view more than 800 junk food ads each year if they watch 80 minutes of television per day.

Across the year, discretionary food advertising peaked at 71 per cent of all food advertising in January, dropping to a low of 41 per cent in August.

“Diet-related problems are the leading cause of disease in Australia," says the study’s lead author, University of Adelaide’s Associate Professor Lisa Smithers. "The World Health Organisation has concluded that food marketing influences the types of foods that children prefer to eat, ask their parents for, and ultimately consume."

“The food industry spends over a billion pounds a year on advertising but less than one per cent of that is spent on promoting vegetables.”

Celebrity cook and host of Hugh’s Fat Fight, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, comments that it’s no wonder more and more people are calling on governments to restrict junk food adverts.

“The food industry spends over a billion pounds a year on advertising but less than one per cent of that is spent on promoting vegetables,” says Fearnley-Whittingstall in episode three of Hugh’s Fat Fight, airing on SBS on Monday 1 October at 8.30pm.

“…Despite over a decade government telling us to eat our five a day, actually the amount of money we’re spending on fresh vegetables is going down.”

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“This is why we need to focus on the portion sizes when it comes to fruit juices.”

A survey commissioned by Diabetes UK shows that only 66 per cent of adults eat three or less portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

In Australia, the situation is pretty dire. According to a 2018 report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, only seven percent of adults and five per cent of children eat sufficient serves of vegetables every day. 

Given the obesity epidemic currently facing countries like the UK and Australia and the amount of junk food marketing influencing our purchases, Fearnley-Whittingstall wants to know – why aren’t there more advertisements for vegetables?

In episode three of Hugh’s Fat Fight, Fearnley-Whittingstall gets involved in launching a new marketing campaign to spread a positive message about eating vegetables throughout the UK.

Closer to home, Nutrition Australia is one organisation that’s attempting to use marketing to encourage people to eat more vegetables. Their current campaign, ‘Try for 5’, aims to balance out the quantity of junk food advertising with positive marketing messages about healthy eating.

“The evidence shows that a promotion campaign to encourage people to eat more vegetables can make a difference,” says spokesperson for Nutrition Australia, Aloysa Hourigan.

The campaign, which reaches its peak during National Nutrition Week 14-20 October, doesn’t just tell people to eat more vegetables – it offers tips on how we can all include more vegetables in our meals and snacks.

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Beyond her organisation’s own efforts, Hourigan says she’d like to see more financial support for whole-food producers and farmers to advertise their healthy food and fruit vegetable produce.

“The problem is that the whole-food industry – from fruit and vegetable growers or farmers to small whole-food manufacturers – has nowhere near the same dollars to spend on advertising that the food retailers and junk food manufacturers have,” explains Hourigan.

“So unless there’s someone subsidising vegetable producers and whole-food manufacturers to advertise, it might be too hard for most of them to do it.”

“If retailers could promote fruit and vegetables more [than they do already], that would be great.”

Another option, she says, is for big retailers to use their marketing power to support healthy eating campaigns and the specific push to get Australians to eat more vegetables.

“If retailers could promote fruit and vegetables more [than they do already], that would be great.”

In the meantime however, Hourigan encourages adults and children alike to start out small and just add at least one more vegetable on their plate.

“Keep vegetables simple. Keep eating vegetables tasty. But always have some vegetables every day.”

The new three-part series, Hugh's Fat Fight, starts on SBS on Monday 17 September at 8.30pm and will air on Mondays at the same time thereafter. Episodes will be available to stream on SBS On Demand after broadcast. 

Follow the conversation on social media: #SBSAustralia

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