Junk food firms 'use web to get round advertising ban'

Children being targeted online by manufacturers whose products fall foul of TV regulations

The health of a new generation is being jeopardised by companies using the internet to get around a ban on junk food being advertised on children's television, according to a report released today.

Manufacturers of products that are too high in salt, sugar or fat to be advertised on TV are instead targeting children through websites, claim the British Heart Foundation and the Children's Food Campaign.

"Our children's health is at risk. Parents' efforts to help their children eat healthily are being undermined by promotions which are exploiting loopholes in the advertising regulations," the report warns.

New figures released by the NHS last Thursday showed that one in three children are overweight or obese by the time they reach 11.

Brands such as Cadbury Buttons, Capri-Sun, Cheestrings, Chupa Chups and Sugar Puffs are among those cited in the report. All are products that are so high in fat, salt or sugar that they fail the Food Standards Agency (FSA) nutrient profiling test and so cannot be advertised on children's TV. Yet differences in regulations allow them to market their products via the internet, the report says.

The tactics of some companies include online adverts, social networking site links, cartoon characters, and games and apps, as well as free gifts or prizes to appeal to young people.

The report, based on an audit of 100 websites, showed that more than 80 per cent were associated with products classed as "less healthy" by the FSA. Only nine contained any age verification, and those were easily bypassed by entering a false date of birth.

Mubeen Bhutta, the BHF's policy manager, said: "Like wolves in sheep's clothing, junk food manufacturers are preying on children. Regulation protects children from these cynical tactics while watching TV but there is no protection when they're online."

Campaigners are calling on the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to introduce consistent advertising rules across all media. But a spokesman for his department said responsibility rests with the independent Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The ASA is responsible for ensuring "children are suitably protected from harmful or inappropriate advertising", he added.

In a statement, the ASA described Britain's rules on advertising to children as "among the strictest in the world" but added: "If evidence came to light indicating the need to take further steps, we'd take that into account."

Of the companies named in the report, those that responded to calls from The Independent on Sunday claimed to be responsible companies operating in line with relevant regulations. Just one showed any indication of changing its ways. A spokesman for Cadbury Buttons admitted: "We recognised that some of the content did not meet the rigorous Kraft Foods marketing policy and always intended to close this site at the end of this year."

Case study: Natalie Rogers, 34

Mother of eight-year-old twins Minnie and Maisy. From Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

"They eat some of the things in the report at least twice during the week, especially things like Cheestrings, Nesquik and Capri-Sun. You're getting it from all angles because even though junk food is not advertised on children's television programmes, the girls can access information on the internet. It's very hard, being a working mum, to know exactly what they are doing at times. It would be fairer if parents fully understood, which I didn't actually know, that there are not the same regulations on internet advertising as there are for television advertising."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Social Media Account Writers

£12000 - £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This social media management pr...

Ashdown Group: Deputy Editor (Magazine Publishing) - Wimbledon - £23-26K

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Deputy Editor - Wimbledon...

Ashdown Group: Editor (Magazines/Publishing) - Wimbledon - £26-30K

£26000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Editor (Magazines/Publish...

Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

£25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests