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Cancer Society warns to put children’s health before food industry profits

Wellington, 4 March 2022 – Today is World Obesity Day. With this year’s theme 'Everyone Needs to Act', the Cancer Society urges the Government to urgently look at junk food marketing legislation in Aotearoa New Zealand.

There are many benefits to keeping a healthy diet and weight. However, not everyone is aware that an unhealthy diet and excess body weight are key risk factors for several types of cancer, including endometrial cancer, breast cancer and bowel cancer. After not smoking, keeping a healthy weight is one of the most important ways to reduce the risk of cancer.

Cancer Society Medical Director Dr Kate Gregory says: “While there are steps we can individually take to enjoy a healthy diet, it is much more complex than what we do on the individual level. Every child in Aotearoa has the right to grow up in an environment that allows them to be healthy, no matter where they live. However, not everyone has the same opportunities and what we eat is shaped by where we live, our income and what is available and marketed.”

The Cancer Society is hopeful marketing will be addressed with Health Minister Little stating that this issue is on the Government’s agenda for this year, and Minister Henare confirming he has received advice from the Ministry of Health to consider in a recent news article.

Currently, junk food is unashamedly marketed to our young people at every turn. It goes beyond child-like ads using cartoon characters and prizes to entice children to buy their products, they literally can’t escape its forces in their daily lives. Recent research from the University of Otago has shown that our tamariki are being bombarded with a brand name every minute of their waking day.

Currently, there are no government legislation on any junk food marketing activities in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Dr Gregory says: “The Cancer Society strongly believes we can make a significant difference to the health of our tamariki by restricting the marketing they are exposed to. For example, junk food marketing should not be in places dedicated to children like schools, kura, early childhood centres, and playgrounds.”

“We must put our children before food industry profits and act now to protect their health and wellbeing. That’s why we are joining a growing number of organisations and individuals signing up to support government action to protect children from junk food marketing,” ends Dr Kate Gregory.

The Cancer Society calls on other organisations and the general public to show their support too and sign up to the consensus statement, available here.


Cancer Society Medical Director Dr Kate Gregory are available for comments. To schedule an interview, please contact:

Susan Barker
Communications Manager, Cancer Society of New Zealand
027 882 4930

About the Cancer Society of New Zealand
The Cancer Society of New Zealand is the country's leading organisation dedicated to reducing the incidence of cancer and ensuring the best cancer care for New Zealanders. We are committed to working with communities and decision makers by providing leadership and advocacy in cancer control, with core services in information and support, research and health promotion.