December 20, 2011
LONDONRestrictions on television advertising of unhealthy foods to children have successfully reduced the number of advertisements children see in the United Kingdom, however, a weak self-regulatory system allows companies to market high fat, salt and sugar products (HFSS) to children online, and undermines the rationale that prevents them being advertised on childrens TV, according to a new report from the British Heart Foundation and the Childrens Food Campaign.
The joint reportThe 21st century gingerbread house: How companies are marketing junk food to children online"calls for government action to readdress advertising regulations to cover all forms of media, ending the loophole allowing products outlawed from childrens television to be marketed to young people online."
For the report, a content analysis of 100 food and beverage websites was conducted between April and July 2011 to give a snapshot of how companies are marketing food items online. Products and brands were identified by preparing a list of food and beverage products complied from industry trade journals, trade association annual reports, and internet searches.
They found clear evidence of HFSS products being heavily marketed to children online, with websites employing a variety of techniques, including cartoons, animations and brand characters, to increase their appeal to a young audience. The report highlights just a few of the examples researchers found to illustrate the kinds of online promotions and HFSS marketing materials that directly target, or appeal to children. The examples in the report are all products which cannot be advertised during childrens television programs.
Like wolves in sheeps clothing, junk food manufacturers are preying on children and targeting them with fun and games they know will hold their attention. Regulation protects our children from these cynical marketing tactics while theyre watching their favorite childrens TV programs but there is no protection when theyre online," said British Heart Foundation Policy Manager Mubeen Bhutta. With around a third of children classified as overweight or obese today its crucial that the U.K. Government takes action."
The report called for the government to introduce new rules that end the loophole allowing products outlawed from childrens television to be marketed to young people online. Specifically, new rules should introduce equally stringent measures across the broadcast and non-broadcast codes; include all online marketing techniques to maintain consistency in the messages to young people; and distinguish between healthy and HFSS products.
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