Food companies web sites trying to entice children

Many food companies such as Cadbury, Kelloggs, Rowntree, and more have set up their websites to be filled with cartoon characters, free games, and videos in an attempt to lure children onto their websites where they can advertise to them.  In addition, these retailers also use their Twitter and Facebook accounts to lure children into their websites and to see their products.  This has caused controversy from many charity groups who claim that the companies should not be able to market children junk food online when they are not allowed to so during children’s television programming.

Ministers have already drawn controversy on the subject by allowing many food companies that produce junk food to sit on committees that have the sole intent on deciding public health regulations which has led many doctors to protest.  According to television regulations, TV adverts that portray foods high in sugar, salt, or fat cannot be shown during kids’ television programming, however online the same rules do not apply.

Now the Children’s Food Campaign and the British Heart Foundation are asking for online regulations to be tightened stating that the companies are using techniques to lure children into their websties that they cannot perceive as advertising.  The report stated that companies are using regulatory gaps to their favour in order to reach children outside of the television format and that online marketing is more valuable allowing them to create a lifestyle image that promotes poor nutritional diet habits to children.  Therefore, children are still getting the same messages that legislation has been created to protect them from.

Websites that have been targeted for criticism include Kellog’s Krave cereal, Chupa Chups, Rowntree, Nesquik, Capri-Sun, Cadbury Buttons and more.  Over three quarters of those websites offer high salt, fat, or sugar food items that have pages on Twitter or Facebook.  Given the fact that children can like a product and then the like is displayed to their friends Facebook is especially concerning to the charities who are worried that peer pressure will lead kids into thinking that the unhealthy foods are popular and trendy choices.

Researchers that took part in the report chose to sign up and receive emails from Sugar Puffs in order to see what children have access to.  Those who sign up are only asked to verify they are over 16, which a child can easily do by clicking yes to gaining access to the information contained within.

On the Cadbury Buttons website there is an animated character that can actually be made to look like a child by changing the features and name of the child.  The website asks adults to verify their age by entering a birthday, but once again a child could just pick one of the options at will.

This trend is the same for many of the websites in the study prompting concerns from researchers who stated that children can easily access the marketing of the websites without any real knowledge that they are being influenced to think one way or another about the junk food items.  Researchers claim that this no doubt makes marketers happy since they must be aware that they are protected, but that children are still accessing their websites and seeing their products on full display.

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