2008 Archive

December 2008

Children's Food Campaign wins Good Housekeeping magazine's Consumer Campaign of the Year Award

The work of the Children's Food Campaign was recognised at the prestigious 8th Annual Good Housekeeping Consumer Awards this week.

The Good Housekeeping Food Awards encompass 11 categories and reward good products, retailers and campaigns. The judging panel included environmental campaigner Tony Juniper; How Clean Is Your House? presenter Aggie MacKenzie; Director of Dyson Jon Churchill; and BBC Masterchef winner James Mason. It is the first time that Good Housekeeping has included a category for campaigns.
Receiving the Consumer Campaign of the Year award from Good Housekeeping magazine is a great honour for the Children's Food Campaign. Good Housekeeping is hugely influential and we are delighted that our continuing efforts to protect children's health have been recognised

Junk food adverts in the school curriculum: we want your stories

Research from the Children's Food Campaign has revealed an startling number of commercially sponsored curriculum packs containing promotions of brands and food products, and incorrect "facts".

Examples include a Nestle produced pack about growing up which featured the confectionary giant's logo on every page and a worksheet claiming crisps are healthier than apples. The curriculum packs, presented as easy-to-use lesson plans for busy teachers, are produced on behalf of food companies and trade bodies such as Britvic and the British Cheese Board.

We want to hear from you about your experience of curriculum pack adverts in schools. What are your views on food companies sending branded lesson plans into schools? Have you come across teaching materials produced by food companies in your children's schools? Perhaps you are a teacher who has been sent commercially-produced curriculum packs, or had a colleague using them.
We'd love to hear your experiences, so do get in touch at lianna@sustainweb.org.

British Heart Foundation Survey finds 73% of youngsters unaware of the dangers of junk food

Young people are largely unaware that a diet high in junk food can damage their health, a survey has found.

The survey, of over 1000 children between eight and fifteen, found that 73% of respondents were not aware that a poor diet could shorten their life, and 45% thought the worst that would happen to them would be to "make them put on weight, cause their teeth to rot, give them spots or make them unpopular."

The survey suggests that the Government's health messages are not yet getting through to British youth.


Fast food "feedbag" lets users move less, eat more

Finally, a "spoof" invention from the United States allows users to take food on the hoof to new levels!




November 2008

Councils stands up to fast food restaurants

An East London borough plans to ban fast food takeaways operating within 400 metres of school gates, youth centres and parks. Waltham Forest council also intends to use planning regulations to limit the proliferation of fast food outlets and restrict their opening hours.

Waltham Forest has above average levels of obese and overweight children. Its decision to protect children from fast food follows the move by Knowsley Council in September to use planning laws to limit fast food outlets and protect children’s health.

Meanwhile, further north, McDonalds is in a flap over Liverpool council plans to protect kids from burger marketing.

Plans by Liverpool Council to prevent tackle childhood obesity by preventing takeaways from using toys to market their meals have provoked an indignant reaction from the fast-food giant.

McDonalds claim that the Council’s proposals to withdraw promotional toys and help parents to resist pester power will “take the fun out of eating out”. Somewhat hysterically, they also claim that the Council’s plans would outlaw Easter egg hunts in venues throughout the city.

Cllr Paul Twigger said it was important every effort was made to tackle childhood obesity, which afflicts 13,000 youngsters in the city.




Ed Balls: Protect children from unhealthy food outside school gates

School Secretary Ed Balls has called for schools to lock children in at lunch time in order to prevent them from buying high-fat, high-salt, high sugar foods from outlets nearby. He also lent his support to councils like Waltham Forest who choose to restrict fast-food takeaways near school gates.

Speaking to the Healthy Eating in Schools Conference in London, Mr Balls claimed that ‘stay-on site’ policies can help tackle an ‘ingrained culture of unhealthy eating’.



Increase in spending on food ads aimed at children in print

Figures from the Department of Health show that their limited protections for children from junk food adverts on television has simply pushed advertising spend into other sectors. The figures, published as part of a review of advertising to children from January 2003 to December 2007, show that press adverts for food aimed at children have increased by 42% since 2003, while radio, cinema  and internet adverts increased by 11%.

As of November 2006, Ofcom have restricted adverts for junk food around children’s TV programmes, although adverts for unhealthy food continue to be broadcast around family programmes such as X-Factor which command the higher child audiences than children’s television.

The Children’s Food Campaign is unsurprised that the Government’s inconsistent attempts to somewhat protect children from junk food TV advertising, while leaving non-broadcast advertising essentially unregulated, have led to an increase in non-broadcast advertising of junk to kids. Unless food advertising to children is regulated across all media, children will continue to be exposed to marketing which encourage unhealthy diets.



Children face doubled cancer risk unless we tackle obesity, says cancer expert

Professor Martin Wiseman of the World Cancer Research Fund has highlighted the risk that the obesity crisis poses to cancer levels. Speaking at a conference organised by the Association for the Study of Obesity, Professor Wiseman stated that cancer rates could double in the next forty years unless action is taken.

He said, "The evidence now shows that, after not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight is the most important thing you can do for cancer prevention. Unless something happens soon to stop the increase in obesity then we are sleepwalking towards a situation where the UK will be facing more cancer cases than ever before.”



Outrage over Cadbury sponsorship of London Olympic Games

The confectionary company is to donate £20m to the 2012 Games, prompting anger that it will use the opportunity to associate Cadbury products with  sport and fitness. There has already been anger that the International Olympic Commission has tied the 2012 games into sponsorship deals with McDonalds and Coca-Cola.

Food campaigners have reacted angrily to the news that the event, touted by the Government as a way of enthusing children about sport, is being used as a marketing opportunity by junk food manufacturers.



October 2008

The Government commits to testing free school meals in primary schools

Health Secretary Alan Johnson has announced that the Government will be running trials of free school meals.
The trials will look at whether free school meals improve children's health, concentration and behaviour in schools. If the trials prove successful, the scheme could be spread nationwide.

Free school meals have already been tested in Hull, with schools reporting both increased take-up, and an improvement in pupil's behaviour.

The Children's Food Campaign is delighted that the Government is looking at what is a relatively cheap, but effective, way to improve children's health.

And in the same week, the Scottish Government announced plans for free school meals to be offered to all pupils in their first three years of school.

From 2010, all five to seven year olds in Scotland will receive free school meals. The scheme follows the success of pilot projects in five regions of Scotland that increased take-up of school meals by a quarter.




Companies slammed for using cartoon characters to sell junk food to children

Consumer group Which? has published a report highlighting the failure of regulations intended to protect children from junk food advertising using cartoon characters.

The report found that every one of the 19 company-owned cartoon characters surveyed were used in promotions for fatty, sugary or salty food.

While current regulations forbid the use of licensed cartoon characters, such as Winnie the Pooh, they continue to allow the use of company's own characters, such as the Honey Monster and Coco the Monkey.

The report's authors said that if companies failed voluntarily to end the use of child-friendly characters to promote junk food, then the Government should close the loop-hole in the current rules.



Make canteens more like restaurants to improve school meal take-up, says Minister

Ed Balls has spoken out about the need to improve conditions in schools canteens.

The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families told schools that letting children book tables; using swipe card systems to speed up queues and letting younger children eat separately from older ones would encourage more children to opt for school meals.

The announcement follows research which showed that large numbers of pupils are abandoning the school canteen for food bought from outside school gates, which is often high in sugar, fat and salt. Noisy canteens, long queues, limited choice and being shouted at by teachers were reasons cited by pupils for abandoning school dinners.

Balls also suggested that replacing prison-style trays with china and cutlery could improve the experience of eating in school.  He said, "Lunch should be a social occasion, and children need a good dining experience in their first few weeks of secondary school or else they may never come back."



Wales on the way to protecting children from junk food in schools

Wales is also making progress on improving school dinners, and limiting the availability of junk food in canteens, tuck shops and vending machines.
Following the success of improvements to food in English schools in 2005, Welsh Assembly Members are proposing introducing legislation which would set minimum nutritional standards in schools.




September 2008

Education materials from food industry mislead pupils

Food companies have been lambasted for producing “educational” materials which promote their products and include dubious claims. An investigation by the Children’s Food Campaign revealed food companies including Nestlé, Kraft and Walkers, as well as industry trade bodies, are producing curriculum packs for use in schools.

Information in these packs, presented as fact, is often wrong and likely to encourage poor diets. For example, the Food and Drink Federation’s website aimed at children (http://www.jointheactivators.org.uk/) includes the highly disputed statement that “There is no such thing as a 'good' or 'bad' food, only good or bad diets” and says that , “children should not reduce food intake to lose weight.”. The British Soft Drinks Association implies that sugary foods (like their own products) are a similar food type to bread, rice and pasta.

Websites from the companies which create these materials present them as an opportunity to ‘build their brands and extend their markets’ among young people.

Have you come across ‘educational’ materials from food companies at your children’s school? Please email and tell us if you have!


Fast food and advertising industry coalition pledges to tackle obesity

The Government has announced they will launch a £75million advertising campaign to encourage healthy living. The ‘Change4Life’ campaign, due to launch in 2009, will also receive up to £200m in airtime, promotions and on-package messages from members of the Advertisers Association, the trade body for companies in the advertising industry.

The Children’s Food Campaign is keen to ensure that the health campaign is not simply hijacked as a public relations and brand promotion exercise. We are sceptical that junk food companies can be constructive partners in an anti-obesity campaign. 

There were red faces all round when the Department of Health denied claims from the Advertisers Association that a range of their members, including junk food companies like Cadburys and Kraft, were to be involved in Change4Life.

Strict criteria are needed to ensure that companies such as Kellogg’s, who promote foods high in fat, salt or sugar, are excluded from the campaign. As Victoria Macdonald, Channel 4’s social affairs correspondent, said; “How can a clear message be sent to children not to eat junk food by, er, junk food manufacturers?”


Limiting fast food outlets in Merseyside could save lives

Knowsley council has asked planning officers to consider limiting fast food outlets in the borough. The measure is one of several recommendations from an inquiry into promoting health in an area with high rates of heart disease mortality. The inquiry also recommended that secondary schools are rebuilt to provide dining facilities to allow all children and teachers to have a healthy and relaxed lunch.

Using planning powers to limit the proliferation of fast food restaurants had been suggested by the Government in their strategy paper Healthy Weight Healthy Lives. But this is believed to be the first time that a council has endorsed the measure.

The move comes just weeks after councillors in Los Angeles voted to back a moratorium on the opening of fast food chains in the South of the city. Fast food outlets currently make up almost half (45%) of restaurants there.



Nestlé criticised for using sports celebrity to sell sweets to children

A promotion associating sweets with sports and fitness has been criticised by children’s health campaigners. The promotion used sports celebrity Daly Thompson to advertise Smarties, Fruit Pastilles and Milky Bars. The adverts, which appear on television and on posters, encourage children to collect wrappers from the high-sugar snacks and exchange them for sports sessions.

Children would have to do aerobics for three hours and forty five minutes to burn the calories in the three tubes of fruit pastilles needed to obtain a single aerobics session.

New evidence on junk food and children’s academic performance

Researchers at the University of Bristol have found that eating junk food as a toddler affects children’s performance in school up to seven years later. The research project has been following 14,000 mothers and children since pregnancy in 1990 – 1991. They found that children who ate a diet high in processed foods, salt, fat and sugar at age three made less progress in school between the ages of 6 and 10 than their peers who had eaten more healthily.

The study controlled for the influence of other factors such as poor housing and low income.

Chief Medical Officer raises concern over teenagers’ diets

Sir Liam Donaldson, the Government’s Chief Medical Officer, has used his annual report to draw attention to the crisis in teenage dietary health. He warns that the most commonly eaten foods for 11 – 18 year olds are pizzas, sausages, burgers, chips and carbonated soft drinks, and 1.5 million boys and 1.2 million girls did not eat the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

“Habits adopted in the teenage years can form behaviour for a lifetime” he said. “The effects of poor health in adolescence can last a lifetime, and even shorten it. Keeping teenagers well is a valuable investment for the health of the population in the future."

Three quarters of obese adolescents remain obese in adulthood.



July 2008

Children’s Food Campaign takes on Burger King over Indiana Jones promotion

The Children’s Food Campaign has written a letter to Burger King’s Head of Marketing, attacking the chain for its promotion of fast food to children using the new Indiana Jones film.

The letter criticises the chain for using Indiana Jones posters, packaging and toys to promote its Kids Menu. The promotion comes just months after the high street giant signed a pledge that purported to cease all advertising to children on TV, in print or through the internet. The campaign is calling on Burger King to end its practice of using film tie-ins to promote its brand to kids.

Burger King was found to be giving away one of eight Indiana Jones themed toys with every purchase from its kids menu. This is despite the fact that in December 2007, Burger King was one of eleven food companies which signed the EU pledge, committing itself to “change...food and beverage advertising to children in support of parental efforts to promote healthy lifestyles”.

Toys include Boulder Escape Indy; Stunt Jump Indy; the Tricky Treasure and the Temple of Mystery.

Jackie Schneider, mother of three and founder of Merton Parents for Better Food in Schools, said “This deal is a seedy attempt by Burger King to appeal directly to our kids to repeatedly visit Burger King, and undermines parental attempts to encourage a balanced diet."

This shameless attempt to cash in on the success of the Indiana Jones film to sell burgers to children is completely inconsistent with Burger King’s claims to support health. Once again, the food industry has shown that they cannot be trusted to self-regulate.

The letter, and pictures of Burger King’s Indiana Jones burger bag, are available at www.sustainweb.org/news.php?id=217


Pupils are abandoning school dinners in favour of junk food outside school gates

A report carried out by researchers at the London Metropolitan University has found that the vast majority of pupils are buying lunch from takeaways, supermarkets and newsagents, with 79% buying from shops outside the school at least once a week. Less than half ate in the canteen on any given day.

The report found that children chose not to eat in the school canteen because it is more expensive than outlets near school, and because queues, shouting and a lack of space made the canteen an unattractive place to eat.

Food bought from outside the school gates tended to be less healthy than school food, with higher than the recommended levels of fat and sugar.


Healthy diets could save 70,000 lives annually, says Cabinet Office

A report on food has claimed that preventable diet-related ill-health could be costing the NHS up to £6 billion a year. The report, entitled Food Matters, also tackles questions of global food security and the environmental impact of the present food system.

The report attempts to set a course for food and farming policy over the next 20 years. It paints a stark picture of the current failings of the food and farming system, both damage to the environment and to individuals’ health.

Recognising that the market alone cannot guarantee a socially and environmentally sustainable food system, Food Matters calls for a food strategy taskforce to oversee this shift. It also calls for the Food Standards Agency to see sustainability as a core part of its remit.

However, the report’s policy recommendations failed to match the rigour of its analysis. The major headline pledge was a voluntary mark available to public sector caterers showing that a meal was both healthy and sustainable. Given the grave problems to health and the environment caused by the current food system, the government must do much more to improve people’s diets and reduce the impact of food production.


Diet, not exercise, is responsible for junk food epidemic

A central argument of the food and drink industry has been demolished by evidence that it is changes in diet, rather than a reduction in exercise, that is responsible for rising levels of obesity.

A study by researchers at the Universities of Maastricht and Aberdeen showed that there has been no reduction in the amount of energy that people expend in their daily lives over the last twenty years, nor is there a significant difference in the amount of energy that people in the developing world expend, compared to industrial societies.


Report reveals yawning gap in childhood obesity in rich and poor areas

Figures released as part of the Health Profiles in England survey show that there is a substantial divide in health and weight across different regions of the country.

Nationwide, around 10% of children starting school are clinically obese, but in Hackney, the worst local authority for childhood obesity, the figure rises to 16%. Meanwhile, the best performing borough, Teesdale, showed that only 5% of children were obese at age 5.

Experts urged caution regarding the findings. The weighing of school children was voluntary, and so with heavier more likely to opt out, the figures are likely to misrepresent the real scale of obesity in England.



The reality gap: companies’ policies on responsible marketing hide continued promotions of junk

A study by consumer group Which? has revealed that leading food companies are still not doing enough, despite a proliferation of impressive sounding policies.

‘Food Fables – the second sitting’ analysed the policies on marketing to children of twelve companies , and how they performed in practice. They found that most were still using tactics such as child-friendly packaging, free gifts and competitions, while others were switching into new media that parents are less likely to be aware of, such as the internet and text messaging.

However, it wasn’t all bad news. Weetabix and KFC were praised for a more responsible approach to marketing their products to children.

The report can be found at:


May 2008

MPs put interests of junk food manufacturers above children’s health

Despite a clear message from the public that advertising junk food to children is not acceptable, last month the Food Products (Marketing to Children) Bill had its progress through Parliament blocked by opposing MPs.

It’s rare for a Private Members Bill to succeed, and despite an overwhelming response from campaign supporters, the Bill was talked out by MPs who oppose regulations on advertising, and ran out of time on 25th April. MP Philip Davis, who worked for Asda before entering Parliament, was still speaking when the session came to an end.

Nigel Griffiths, the MP who introduced the Bill, said "I'm absolutely furious a former supermarket executive from Asda, who doesn't believe in advertising controls, has done this.”

The lobbying from campaign supporters wanting better protection for children was brilliant. Over 2000 emails were sent to MPs, as well as over 250 postcards. Early Day Motion 445, calling for an end to junk food marketing which targets children, was signed by over 220 MPs, making it one of the ten most popular EDMs in Parliament.

A big thank-you to everyone who wrote to their MP on this issue. The Bill has shown an overwhelming level of public support for protecting children from irresponsible advertising. With your help, we’ll go on campaigning to stop unhealthy food companies and the advertising industry exploiting children.



Dangerous additives to be removed from foods

The Food Standards Agency has decided to ban six food colourings which have been shown to pose a risk to children’s health.

The additives, used widely in children’s food and drink, were shown in the Southampton Study to cause hyperactivity in children. From the end of 2009, there will be a voluntary ban on the additives in the UK. Researchers at the University of Southampton suggest that the move could cut the number of children showing hyperactive behaviour by one third.

The FSA has also advised ministers to call for a mandatory EU-wide ban on the six food additives which affect children’s behaviour. The additives are currently used in over 1,000 products, including Irn Bru, M&Ms and Cadbury’s Creme Eggs.

Anna Glayzer of Action on Additives said, “The onus is now on the European Commission to follow the example of the FSA and act for benefit of the consumer. The colours are totally unnecessary and a risk to children’s health. There is no public benefit whatsoever in allowing their continued use.”

The six additives are:

  • E102 Tartrazine 
  • E104 Quinoline Yellow 
  • E110 Sunset Yellow 
  • E122 Carmoisine 
  • E124 Ponceau 4R 
  • E129 Allura Red

Information on which products contain the additives can be found on http://www.actiononadditives.com/


Interactive food and beverage marketing - My “friend” Coca-Cola

Social networking sites, such as Bebo, MySpace and Facebook have become the latest way for food companies to target children.

Almost half of 8 – 17 year olds have an online profile and the food advertising industry has been quick to see the potential of such sites for reaching youngsters, and dodging the restrictions on junk food advertising on television.

Marketers have created a wide variety of junk food related applications in the last year. Sprite offers Facebook users ‘Sips’, animated characters to interact with, and Dr Pepper fans can ‘give’ their friends icons of the sugary drink.

Placing profile pages for a product, allowing young people to add themselves as fans, is also a popular tactic. Skittles, which are made by the confectionery giant Mars, have a profile on the popular social networking site Bebo. The page has already been viewed more than 50,000 times and attracted more than 3,500 "friends".

Mars has even launched an application which allows users to buy real chocolate to send to their friends. Users send their Facebook friends a virtual Mars product online, along with a code which can be redeemed for an actual Mars product in a shop.

However, some companies have been seeing their online marketing strategy backfire as people use companies’ online profiles to post comments attacking junk food brands. One disgruntled user posted the following on the Burger King profile page: ‘i use to work there trust me it ant as gd as u think’. (sic)


April 2008

Support grows among MPs for the Food Products (Marketing to Children) Bill

Writing to your MP about the Bill is the one most effective thing you can do to help protect children from junk food advertising, and will take no longer than five minutes.

Pressure is growing on MPs to attend the Second Reading of the Food Products (Marketing to Children) Bill. The Bill will protect children from all forms of junk food marketing, whether via TV, the internet or packaging.

Thanks to all the support we have received from our members and from national organisations in the fields of health, consumer rights and children's welfare, Early Day Motion 445 which calls for an end to unhealthy food marketing has now been signed by over 190 MPs.

With just over two weeks to go until the Bill’s Second Reading, we now urgently need more MPs to agree to attend. Many MPs have committed to supporting the Bill when it enters Parliament, and many more have expressed interest.
But for the Food Products (Marketing to Children) Bill to succeed, we need a hundred MPs to turn up and support it. That is why we are asking you if you haven’t already, to write to your MP asking them to attend the Reading. There’s a template letter you may want to use at http://www.childrensfoodcampaign.co.uk/.

Several MPs have told us that they are attending after being contacted by a constituent, so your letters really do make a difference.

You can find out who your local MP is by logging on to: http://www.writetothem.com/.

More evidence that TV ad regulations are failing children

Programmes with the most child viewers are not covered by current rules on junk food advertising, a survey has found. Out of 20 of the programmes most watched by children, only one is covered by Ofcom restrictions on junk food advertising.

The survey, carried out in January by consumer protection body Which? found that advertisers were free to broadcast junk food adverts in all but one of the programmes with the highest number of children in the audience.

Unsurprisingly, the majority of programmes surveyed did carry adverts for foods high in salt, fat and sugar.

The current regulations are deeply flawed, as they classify programmes using the proportion of children in the audience, rather than the absolute number of children in the audience. This means that The Simpsons, with a child audience of less than 400,000, is covered by restrictions. However, ‘family’ programmes such as Dancing on Ice, with more than a million child viewers, are not.

The survey shows that current regulations are clearly failing to protect children, and highlights the urgent need for a 9 pm watershed. Ofcom’s current regulations on TV junk food advertising were designed as a fudge between children’s health and the economic interests of the industry. We continue to argue that children’s health should come first.

More children are watching junk food adverts despite television restrictions

Research from the Department of Health show that the number of times that children watch TV junk food adverts has risen by 26% in the last two years.

Dr Will Cavendish, Director of Health and Wellbeing at the Department of Health, described the figures as ‘worrying.’ "We know large numbers of children are still seeing TV ads for high fat, sugar and salt food and drink, though in programmes not specifically aimed at children", he wrote, and advised ministers to take tougher action at a time when almost a third of 11 year olds are classified as overweight or obese.

By passing Nigel Griffith’s bill, MPs will be able to tackle the rising number of TV adverts for junk food that children are exposed to, as well as ending the barrage of junk food adverts in non-broadcast media.


The food industry fights back

Following the success of EDM 445 which supports protecting children from junk food advertising, the Food and Drink Federation have fought back.

The FDF, a trade body which exists to protect the interests of food manufacturers, have introduced their own EDM opposing further restrictions on junk food advertising.

However, EDM 963 isn’t doing too well at the moment, and to date has gathered a grand total of 7 signatures. Two signatures are from MPs, who have also signed EDM 445 supporting restrictions on junk food advertising.

The EDM is also signed by Derek Conway, the disgraced MP who was suspended from Parliament for paying his son an excessive salary as a researcher.


March 2008

Pressure grows on MPs to support the Food Products (Marketing to Children) Bill

The new bill is a crucial opportunity to pass legislation to protect children from all forms of unhealthy food advertising. This includes both pre-watershed television advertising of unhealthy foods and advertising in other media such as in magazines. However, we need your help to persuade MPs to support the bill.

For the bill to pass, 100 MPs must be present when it is introduced to the House of Commons on 25 April. The food and advertising industries will be doing all they can to block tighter regulation on junk food ads. A strong turnout from MPs will send a message loud and clear to government that they need to do more to protect children’s health.

Thank you to everyone who has written to their MP asking them to support Early Day Motion EDM 445 - over 150 MPs have now signed it. EDM 445 calls for an end to all marketing of junk food to children, whether through the television, internet, packaging or product placement.

Please join the Children’s Food Campaign in lobbying MPs to support this bill by writing to your MP (you can find out who they are at http://www.writetothem.com/) and asking them to attend the second reading of Nigel Griffith’s Food Products (Marketing to Children) Bill.
You could include the following points:

  • Child obesity and diet-related ill health is a major public health concern
  • Junk food advertising has been shown to affect children’s food preference and is a key part of the problem
  • The Bill will protect children from all forms of junk food advertising
  • Please attend the second reading of the Food Products (Marketing to Children) Bill on 25 April (and sign EDM 445 if they haven’t already done so). 

There is also a template letter available on the Children’s Food Campaign website.

Launch of the government’s obesity strategy

The publication of the government’s obesity strategy in January has failed to recommend any coherent policies to meet the challenge of junk food advertisements targeting children.

A range of measures aimed at combating obesity were proposed, including planning ‘health towns’ designed to promote walking and cycling; paying obese people in vouchers to lose weight and encouraging employers to offer fitness opportunities in the workplace.

However, the strategy does nothing to tackle the key issue of junk food marketing. It merely recommends that Ofcom bring forward a review of current advertising rules, and fails to address non-broadcast advertisements which comprise the majority of junk food marketing. Clearly, advertisements affect children’s diets, and tackling junk food advertising must be a crucial part of any attempts to tackle the crisis in children’s health.

Responding to the weak proposals on advertising in the obesity strategy, the children's commissioner, Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green, called for "a firm commitment ... to introduce a 9pm watershed on junk food TV adverts to further limit young people's exposure to unhealthy foods".

Towards the end of last year, statements from government ministers suggested that the government was serious about restricting the marketing of unhealthy foods. It now seems as though they are putting the profits of the junk food industry before the health of Britain’s children. We need to keep up the pressure until the government translates its words on pre-watershed advertising into action.

Read our press release on the obesity strategy - https://www.sustainweb.org/news.php?id=204
The strategy is available to download - http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_082378

Victory for cooking lessons in schools

Ever since we were set up, the Children’s Food Campaign has been campaigning for cooking to be taught to all children. In January, the Government announced as part of its obesity strategy that that cooking lessons will become compulsory in all secondary schools.

This is great news. Research has shown that cooking lessons play a key part in helping people to eat healthily. Cooking skills mean that people don’t have to rely on expensive and unhealthy processed meals, and can make more nutritious choices. If schools are provided with adequate facilities, then the decision to reintroduce cooking into the curriculum will provide millions of children with an essential life skill.

The government is seeking your views on the reintroduced cookery lessons. What dishes do you think secondary school pupils should learn to cook?  Email your suggestions to getcooking.consultation@dcsf.gsi.gov.uk Read more on teaching food skills in schools on our website: www.sustainweb.org/page.php?id=203

Junk food industry turns to the internet to tempt children

Restrictions on television advertising of unhealthy food have prompted junk food firms to expand their use of websites, which remain entirely unregulated. A groundbreaking report on non-broadcast advertising, produced earlier this year by the Children’s Food Campaign and the British Heart Foundation (BHF), highlights the extent to which manufacturers are developing new ways to push junk food to children.
(see www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/01/02/nobese202.xml)

Since last year, the advertising of unhealthy food around programmes produced for children has been banned. However, this leaves open to the junk food industry a multitude of techniques for targeting children. These include:

  • Having child-friendly celebrities and cartoon characters on food packaging
  • Games and quizzes on food labels
  • Sending messages to children’s mobile phones
  • Using social networking sites such as MySpace to market products
  • ‘Clubs’ which persuade children to enter their personal details, in return for membership ‘bonuses’ which might include a card, free samples...and the opportunity to be targeted by each new advertising campaign
  • Websites packed with games, familiarising children with junk food logos and getting them to associate the product with being ‘cool’.

However, a survey by the British Heart Foundation showed that parents remain unaware of the junk food industry stalking their children in cyberspace. Two thirds of parents are not aware junk food manufacturers are using internet games to target children, and more than half of parents are not aware that games and quizzes are used on food or drink labels to attract children.

Clearly, the current system of self-regulation is clearly not adequate in the twenty-first century.  Properly enforced statutory rules are the only way to protect our children from junk food marketing.

Check out the British Heart Foundation’s ‘Don’t Target My Kids’ website - http://www.bhf.org.uk/donttargetmykids/

And finally...

A survey of different countries’ attitudes to fast food show that Britain leads the world in its love for burgers, chips and pizza, beating even the USA.

And if you’re ever tempted by those glossy, crispy, luscious images of fast food that the advertisers show, have a look at what you might actually get here.

How you can help the campaign today:

1. If they haven’t already done so, contact your MP asking them to sign EDM 445 on food advertising aimed at children. You can see whether they’ve signed at http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=34574&SESSION=891 and write to them via: http://www.writetothem.com/

2. If your MP has already signed EDM 445, write to ask them to attend the second reading of the Food Products (Marketing to Children) Bill.  Again on 25 April, you can do this via: http://www.writetothem.com/

3. Donate to the Children’s Food Campaign https://www.sustainweb.org/page.php?id=108.  We rely on small donations and every penny you can spare will make a difference.

Support our campaign

Your donation will help us champion children’s rights, parent power and government action to improve the food environment children grow up in.


Children's Food Campaign

Better food and food teaching for children in schools, and protection of children from junk food marketing are the aims of Sustain's high-profile Children's Food Campaign. We also want clear food labelling that can be understood by everyone, including children.

Find out more

The Green House
244-254 Cambridge Heath Road
London E2 9DA

020 3559 6777

Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.

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