Campaigners call for marketing ban on high sugar and salt product ranges for children
A study from campaign groups Action on Sugar and Action on Salt, based at Queen Mary University of London, reports that half (51%) of 526 food and drink products featuring cartoon animations on packaging aimed at children contained concerningly high levels of fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt.
The study, in association with the Children’s Food Campaign has claimed that manufacturers and retailers had use powerful tactics deliberately aimed at persuading them into buying products that are perceived as being unhealthy, leading to potential excessive consumption levels.
Consequently, Action on Sugar, Action on Salt, Children’s Food Campaign and other organisations are calling for a complete ban of such marketing tactics on product ranges including chocolate, cakes and ice-cream, and for compulsory ‘traffic light’ nutrition labelling, giving parents the chance to make healthier choices.
As the campaigners asserted, If marketing on children’s packaging were to follow the same advertising codes as set by the Committee for Advertising Practices for broadcast advertising, half would fail the eligibility criteria and therefore would not be allowed to be advertised to audiences under the age of 16.
Action on Salt, Action on Sugar and Children’s Food Campaign call for this criteria to be extended to all forms of media, and to any programme watched by a child, as is currently being discussed in the Governments’ latest consultation on further advertising restrictions for products high in fat, salt and sugar.
The study found that over one in five (21%) products used licensed characters (e.g. Disney, Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol) that are often well recognised by young children. More than a third (37%) were found on confectionery, chocolate, cakes and ice cream, which are not recommended for regular eating.
In its findings, the study revealed that 32 of the 94 products surveyed (34%) using licensed characters have a red label for either fat, saturated fat, sugars and/or salt, classifying them as being unhealthy.
Paw Patrol (chocolate range pictures) and Peppa Pig were cited as the worst character performers, with more than half of products (57%) with Paw Patrol and 50% with Peppa Pig imagery being high in fat, salt and/or sugar. Examples include:
• Kinnerton Paw Patrol 6 Mini Chocolate Bars with over 60% sugar and 17% saturated fat (7.2g sugar and 2.1g saturated fat/serving). Just one 12g chocolate bar would provide a 4-6 year old with over a third (38%) of their maximum daily recommended intake for sugars.
• Paw Patrol Milk Chocolate Coins with 60% sugar; eating 4 coins would provide a 4-6 year old with 12g sugar – nearly two thirds of their maximum daily recommended intake.
• Peppa Pig Candy Bites with 99% sugar
• Peppa Pig Muddy Puddle Cupcakes with 47.9% sugar (9.6g sugar and 0.8g saturated fat per cupcake).
A select few companies have used licensed characters responsibly to promote water, fruit or vegetables. Some had also opted for lower sugar variants e.g. Disney Kitchen cake mixes have 15-16g sugar per 100g compared to Despicable Me Make Your Own Minion Cupcakes with 49.7g sugar per 100g.
In a Children’s Food Campaign Parents’ Jury survey in 2018, more than 9 in 10 parents said they supported the Government bringing in restrictions on the use of child friendly TV and film characters on foods high in fat, salt and sugar. The use of these characters, and associated toys, was the second highest issue of concern for parents in terms of junk food marketing tactics used to target children, after TV advertising.
Meanwhile, of the 434 products that use brand mascots and characters appealing to children, a total of 53% would receive a red (high) warning label on pack for sugar. Examples include:
• Dr. Moo Quick Milk Magic Sipper Strawberry was packed with the most sugar – 94.0g/100g – that is over 23 tsp of sugar (5.6g/straw).
• Morrisons Dolly Mixtures with an animated mouse character contain 86.6g sugar per 100g, or 21.7g for a third of a bag – over 5 teaspoons worth of sugar. This would be more than the maximum recommended intake of sugars for a 4-6 year old.
Only 18 healthy food and drink products of those tested (such as fruit, vegetables and water) used on-pack child friendly animations. Lidl came out as the best retailer in that respect with their Oaklands range of fruit and vegetables.