The ubiquitous supply of junk foods in our food environment has been partly blamed for the increased rates in overweight and obesity. However, consumption of these foods has generally been examined individually perhaps obscuring the true extent of their combined consumption and impact on health. An overall measure of children’s junk food consumption may prove useful in the development of child obesity prevention strategies. We describe the development of a children’s Junk Food Intake Measure (JFIM) to summarise temporal change in junk food consumption and examine the association between the JFIM and health-related behaviours.
Cross-sectional population surveillance survey of Australian children age 5–16 years collected in 2010 and 2015. Data were collected by questionnaire with parent’s proxy reporting for children in years K, 2 and 4 and children in years 6, 8 and 10 by self-report. Information on diet, screen-time and physical activity was collected using validated questionnaires. The JFIM comprised consumption of fried potato products, potato crisps/salty snacks, sweet and savoury biscuits/cakes/doughnuts, confectionary and, ice cream/ice blocks.
A total of 7565 (missing = 493, 6.1%) and 6944 (missing n = 611, 8.1%) children had complete data on consumption of junk foods, in 2010 and 2015, respectively. The 2015 survey data showed that among students from high socio-economic status neighbourhoods, there were fewer high junk food consumers than low junk food consumers. Children from Middle Eastern cultural backgrounds had higher junk food consumption. High junk food consumers were more likely to consume take-away ≥3/week, eat dinner in front of the television, receive sweet rewards, be allowed to consume snacks anytime, have soft drinks available at home and a TV in their bedroom. There was a lower proportion of high junk food consumers in 2015 compared to 2010.
This is the first study to provide and examine a summary measure of overall junk food consumption among Australian children. The results indicate that junk food consumption among Australian children is lower in 2015, compared with 2010. Still, the public health workforce must continue their efforts as levels of junk food consumption remain of concern among Australian children.