December 18, 2011

Report shows how junk food makers target children onlineLardbar

We’ve released a new report which reveals the tactics used by junk food manufacturers to plug their products to children while they’re playing online.

To see these tactics at work, take a look at our fictional product: Lard Bar.

Junk food manufacturers are preying on children and targeting them with fun and games

Working with the Children’s Food Campaign our report - The 21st century gingerbread house: How companies are marketing junk food to children online assesses how brands bombard kids online in a bid to push products that are high in fat, salt and sugar.

The report was put together as part of our Food4Thought campaign. All of the products featured in our report are outlawed from advertising during children’s television programmes.

Junk food samples
1 Cheestring
more salt than a packet of crisps

1 pack of Cadbury's buttons
more fat than a hamburger

1 bowl of Sugar Puffs
more sugar than a ring doughnut

Nesquik milkshake powder
adds 3 teaspoons of sugar to a glass

But due to a loophole in the regulations, companies are allowed to promote them freely on the internet.

What we want

We are demanding consistent advertising regulations across all forms of media to protect children and their future health. Help us convince the government that tighter regulation is needed by using our template to email Jeremy Hunt the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport.

Email Jeremy Hunt

Wolves in sheeps clothing

Some of the tactics used by junk food manufacturers include bespoke websites which appeal to children, free games, gifts and downloads and the use of fun characters. Many companies also use social networking sites like Facebook as a way to encourage children to share the sites with their friends.

Some websites say that they are age restricted but it’s easy to bypass this by entering a different age or date of birth.

Our Policy Manager, Mubeen Bhutta said:

“Like wolves in sheep’s clothing, junk food manufacturers are preying on children and targeting them with fun and games they know will hold their attention. Regulation protects our children from these cynical marketing tactics while they’re watching their favourite children’s TV programmes but there is no protection when they’re online.

“With around a third of children classified as overweight or obese today it’s crucial that the UK Government takes action."

We know that in the UK, children’s diets tend to contain too much fat, salt and sugar and this could have serious implications for future levels of heart disease and other life-threatening illnesses.

More about the junk food manufacturers


Cheestrings are described as ‘ideal lunchbox snacks’ yet just one Cheestring contains more salt than a typical pack of ready salted crisps. Children visiting the site are personally addressed by Mr.Strings and a selection of games and videos are available for kids to choose from. Children don’t need to state their age to enter the website.

Cadbury's milk buttons

Just one pack of Cadbury’s milk chocolate buttons contains twice as much saturated fat as a typical hamburger. Fun characters are featured across the website and there is an area dedicated to games, puzzles and activities. Users are asked to show they’re over 18 but the site can easily be entered by anyone entering a false year of birth.