What would you do if you were in charge of the country for a day? Free ice cream for everyone? No more taxes? Ban Lime scooters?

Most of us would probably, if we had that magic wand to wave, try and do good with it.

It seems the kids of New Zealand share that altruistic instinct. Otago University researchers interviewed 33 kids aged between 11 and 13 about junk food advertising. They were asked the (slightly leading) question: "If you were Prime Minister for the day and could change anything you wanted about unhealthy food marketing, what would you change?"


Many, it turns out, said they would ban junk food marketing altogether.

Others called for rules, such as the novel "just tell the truth", or accurate nutrition information on marketing material. They suggested getting rid of all the signs and billboards that encourage kids to crave and buy junk food.

One child commented: "The future is … where we're going to be living, and it needs to be a good place for us".

How lovely is this simple wisdom?

There are no real rules – beyond the voluntary ASA code – about the marketing of unhealthy food to kids.

And in any case, this research identified that kids did not distinguish "marketing to children" from other marketing, making any code fairly meaningless. It also found kids could distinguish healthy from unhealthy foods, suggesting they have the nutrition knowledge to make this distinction in marketing.

Despite this, kids also know this marketing makes them crave unhealthy foods, and sometimes they feel powerless against it. Health experts including the WHO have long recommended controls on advertising of unhealthy food as key in fighting childhood obesity.

There seems to be no impetus at government level to change this. Marketing is part of our food environment. And it's our environment that shapes our choices, very often.


No matter how savvy we are, we're all vulnerable to the lure of a well-placed shop display or a well-timed TV ad. Our kids are even more vulnerable. As the report notes: "Too often children's worlds are constructed by adults without consideration of children's lived reality".

Perhaps we'd do well to follow our kids' advice on how to improve their world.

Niki Bezzant is editor-at-large for Healthy Food Guide;