Junk food manufacturers are using manipulative tactics to hook children
while they play online to tempt them to eat junk foods by offering free
gifts, games and downloads, according to a report from the British Heart
Foundation (BHF) and the Children's Food Campaign (CFC). More than 75% of the websites that were studied were promoting high fat, sugar or salt products.
Experts feel that junk food is being promoted online to get around the ban issued by The Advertising Standards Authority's broadcasting code which prohibits advertisements for unhealthy food during children's television programs, or any program which appeals to under-16s.
The BHF cited websites by Cadbury's, Kellogg's, Rowntree and Nestle as examples of 'cynical marketing'. These food giants have set up websites aimed at children that are filled with cartoon characters, videos, competitions, games and applications that appeal to children and promise free toys or prizes. These pages have further been linked to similar pages on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to market these products to young people.
The report said, "Companies are exploiting gaps in the regulations to target children online with promotions for products that cannot be advertised on
children's television. As a result, children continue to be swamped with
commercial messages with one purpose: to persuade them to consume unhealthy products."
With a significant number of children overweight or obese, the BHF and CFC want the ban on marketing to be extended to the web.