Obesity experts have called on Cricket Australia to end its sponsorship deal with the fried chicken chain KFC, saying the relationship is “unhelpful and irresponsible” during a childhood obesity epidemic.
Specialists at the University of Sydney’s Institute of Nutrition Obesity and Exercise say they were alarmed during the last Australian cricket season to see Australian cricket players prominently badged with the logo of KFC and heavy advertising of KFC products.
The chain has been the official fast food restaurant for the sport since 2003.
But Professor Stephen Colagiuri and Professor Ian Caterson say the sponsorship relationship must end.
“We are increasingly concerned and disappointed that Cricket Australia has a sponsorship agreement with, and consequently promotes, KFC,” the specialists wrote in the latest Medical Journal of Australia.
“This advertising uses the standing of cricket and its players to endorse and promote unhealthy eating habits, one of the major root causes of obesity in Australia.”
The nation’s most comprehensive childhood obesity survey, now more than a decade old, estimated 21 per cent of children and adolescents were either overweight or obese, but it is believed the figures have climbed steeply since then.
Caterson said this had led to an “explosion” of obesity related illness, like diabetes, and left no place for what he called the “enthusiastic encouragement of unhealthy and undesirable eating habits”.
“It is ironic that Cricket Australia, while having done so much for the sport, regrettably encourages the promotion of unhealthy, high fat, high calorie KFC products which more than negate any benefit of the increased physical activity associated with playing cricket,” he said.
“Cricket Australia should consider its responsibilities to Australia’s children and youth and review its sponsorship by KFC … to benefit the health of the community and demonstrate leadership and social responsibility by Cricket Australia and Australia’s elite cricketers.”
But Cricket Australia corporate spokesman Peter Young said telling children they could not have KFC was not going to help in encouraging them to have a balanced, healthy lifestyle.
“As far as convenience food or fast food is concerned, our view is everything in moderation,” he told AAP.
“As long as consumers take that approach and have an active lifestyle with a balanced approach to life and a balanced approach to nutrition, then we should be on track to having better national health rather than worse national health.”
Young said KFC helped the organisation deliver its programs, including In2Cricket, a major new initiative to get children involved in the sport and get active.
“Australia has got the least physically active kids in the world and that’s an issue for sport as well as for national health,” he said.
“We’re grateful to KFC for the financial support they provide to cricket.
“It helps keep cricket in the playgrounds, on the ovals and at an elite level in the field internationally.”