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Food companies snare children in their webs

1st August 2005

A survey published today in the Food Magazine shows that food marketing websites aimed at children are rife with the kinds of marketing techniques that would be banned in print and broadcast advertising.

In comparison to expensive TV advertising, websites are cheap to create. And once they are posted on the internet, they can remain online for months without the repeat fees associated with broadcast advertising. They also have international appeal, with children logging on all over the world to receive information about global brands.

But perhaps the biggest benefit for food companies is that online marketing is subject to none of the voluntary codes of practice governed by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the regulatory body set up by the advertising industry to enforce a voluntary code of practice for advertisers. The ASA refuses to rule on complaints about websites.

The majority of such websites also promote high fat, high sugar and high salt foods - brands such as Kinder Surprise, Chupa Chups lollies, Bubblicious bubble gum, Nesquik flavoured milk drink, Frosties sugared cereal, Panda Pops fizzy drinks, and Chewits and Skittles sweets. Marketing websites are often accessed by children on their own or with friends, without the guidance of an adult to help them interpret marketing messages.

"Websites targeted at children often use some of the most insidious and manipulative marketing techniques, such as dubious health claims and marketing techniques that tell a child they will be more popular and attractive if they buy sweets," said Jeanette Longfield, Coordinator of Sustain, which is calling for a ban on junk food marketing to children. "This kind of marketing flies under the radar of parental control and undermines efforts to teach children about good healthy food."

The survey was conducted in support of the campaign for a Children's Food Bill, for legislation to improve children's food and to ban the marketing of unhealthy food to children. The campaign is coordinated by Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming and has the support of 137 national medical and health organisations, children's charities and consumer organisations.

More information

Further details of this survey are available

For press enquiries about food marketing websites, contact Jeanette Longfield; tel: 020 7837 1228; email:

Survey conducted June 2005. Note that some websites are updated regularly and contents will change.

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