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Food Firms 'Target' Network Sites

 

Sky News

July 16, 2008

Companies were still not doing enough to curb their advertising, despite 88% of customers thinking they should be more responsible, consumer watchdog Which? said.

Some of the firms who had pledged to stop marketing unhealthy food to under-12s continued to target youngsters through the use of cartoon characters, film tie-ins, celebrity endorsements and free offers, the study found.

The report - Food Fables - the second sitting - said companies like Weetabix and Kentucky Fried Chicken had made "notable improvements".

However many major food companies were taking advantage of lax regulations and continuing to use irresponsible methods to influence children's food choices, it pointed out.

Kellogg's was among those singled out in the report for encouraging people to text to receive a free ringtone as part of a competition promoting high sugar cereals.

And Coca Cola too was caught bending the rules by introducing a Fanta branded mobile phone game sent to all entrants of a competition.

Companies also used popular websites such as Bebo, Facebook, YouTube and Clubdtv to reach children, the report found.

Cadbury websites included links to child-focused games and competitions, while Mars and PepsiCo developed more sophisticated "cool" brand sites that often linked promotions with popular social networking sites.

"We're not against treats and we're not against marketing, but we are against irresponsible company practices and hollow company commitments," said Sue Davies of Which?.

"You just have to walk around any supermarket to see the wealth of cartoon characters persuading children to pick the less healthy option.

"Tackling the obesity problem demands action in many areas to make healthy choices easier.

"It's time all food companies started to fully play their part and focused their vast array of creative and persuasive marketing techniques on selling healthier foods to children instead of less healthy ones."
 

 

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