05:11pm Sunday 23 February 2020

Wake-up call over ‘junk’ food in children’s favourite brands

World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) has voiced concern at the high number of unhealthy food and drink brands in this year’s Kids Brand Index, which is topped by Walkers Crisps but also includes McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Maltesers and Haribo in the top 10.

WCRF is worried the findings suggest restrictions on marketing food and drink that promote obesity to children are not working. It wants to see the existing ban on advertising these products during children’s programmes extended to programmes that are watched by lots of children but not classified as children’s television. Sponsoring major sporting events such as the World Cup and the Olympics is another way children are exposed to this kind of marketing.

The charity is concerned about the future impact of this because of the strong evidence that excess body fat increases cancer risk.

Kate Mendoza, Head of Education at WCRF, said: “This research into children’s brand awareness and preferences is stark evidence of the powerful impact advertising and sponsorship has on children.

“It is extremely worrying for our children’s health that Walker’s Crisps. McDonald’s and Coca-Cola are in the top five children’s brands. It should be a wake-up call for the Government to examine the rules surrounding the commercial targeting of children.

“It is difficult enough for parents to get their children to eat healthy food if their children are constantly bombarded by messages portraying unhealthy food as fun and aspirational.

“While there may be controls on TV advertising during children’s programmes, there are countless other ways for companies to access children – by advertising during TV shows such as the X Factor, sponsoring events like the Olympics or through websites and online games.

“This survey shows just how far the big companies pushing unhealthy food have made inroads into our children’s food preferences. If this leads to children eating more high-calorie foods then that is going to fuel the obesity crisis and further in the future will result in more cases of cancer and other chronic diseases. This means it is down to parents to redress the balance by encouraging their children to make healthy choices.”

The index from Brand Republic, in association with Harris Interactive, assessed 166 brands on a number of factors such as children’s excitement over the brand, brand popularity, brand awareness, whether they would recommend the brand to other children and which brands were the most fun.

In overall ranking Walker’s Crisps came first, followed by McDonald’s (3rd), Coca-Cola (4th), Maltesers (7th), Haribo (8th), Cadbury Dairy Milk (12th), Kellogg’s Coco Pops (15th), KitKat (16th) and Jaffa Cakes (17th).

WCRF recommends that people limit their consumption of sugary drinks and energy-dense foods (foods with a high proportion of calories), particularly processed foods high in added sugar and fat or low in fibre. This will help them avoid being overweight and obese and reduce their risk of developing cancer.

With children, WCRF encourages them to avoid these foods so they do develop a habit of healthy eating that they can carry on into later life. WCRF has a dedicated website for children to promote healthy eating and physical activity called the Great Grub Club. It is online at www.greatgrubclub.com.

WCRF also recommends that governments restrict advertising and marketing of fast food and other processed foods and sugary drinks to children on television, in other media and in supermarkets.


Notes to editors:

  • The Brand Republic Kids Brand Index, which includes further details of the methodology, is in this week’s PR Week – http://prweek.com/go/kidsbrandindex

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About WCRF

World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) raises awareness that cancer is largely preventable and helps people make choices to reduce their chances of developing the disease.

This includes research into how cancer risk is related to diet, physical activity, and weight management, and education programmes that highlight the fact that about a third of cancers could be prevented through changes to lifestyle. For more information on the charity’s work, visit www.wcrf-uk.org

The WCRF report, called Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective, was launched in November 2007 and is the most comprehensive report ever published on the link between cancer and lifestyle. For more information, visit www.dietandcancerreport.org

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