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Football sells out to junk food brands

27th January 2003

Premier League football clubs and national football organisations are allowing their school-linked health promotion activities to be compromised by fast-food, confectionery and soft drinks companies, according to a new survey by the Food Commission, published today in the Food Magazine.

In a Football ‘Food League’ Table, the Food Commission warns nine Premier League clubs that they are in danger of relegation for promoting junky foods and drinks to children. Teams criticised included Manchester United for its high-profile link-up with Pepsi, Tottenham Hotspur for working with McDonald’s, and Sunderland City for accepting sponsorship from Coca Cola and McDonald’s.

The sport’s coordinating body, the Football Association, was singled out as one of the worst offenders, for circulating nutrition advice to schools and football academies written and sponsored by Mars and promoting Snickers chocolate bars, which are high in fat and sugar. (1)

“None of the food brands promoted by Premier League clubs and the Football Association should be eaten by footballers in the run-up to a game,” said Annie Seeley, nutritionist and campaigns officer for the Food Commission. “With rising levels of obesity and diabetes in children, top footballers could be excellent role models for children, demonstrating the link between good diet and good health. But instead we see adverts showing top players from Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers drinking Pepsi, the Premier League logo on Walkers Crisps, and the Football Association encouraging children to eat chocolate bars and wear McDonald’s branded football kit.”

The only Premier League Team found to be offering unbiased health advice to children, without compromise from junk food sponsorship, was West Ham. The club offers an education programme sponsored by SportsMatch and RailTrack, involving children in physical exercise and giving nutrition advice under the title: “An Active Life + A Healthy Balanced Diet = Healthy Living.”

[1. Food Standards Agency nutrition advice states that 20g per 100g is “a lot” of fat, and 10g per 100g is “a lot” of sugar. Snickers bars contain 27g of fat and an estimated 50g of sugar per 100g.]

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