Cartoon characters wage war on children’s bellies

 11 September 2011

Scooby-Doo, Coco the Monkey and the Nesquik Bunny are leading an army of promotional characters on supermarket shelves ready to ambush children’s bellies with 248* obesity-inducing junk food products.  

Cancer Council renewed calls for compulsory regulations on food packaging as new research reveals that 70 per cent of promotional characters on Australian food packets spruik products to children that are high in fat, salt, and sugar.  

 Researcher and Cancer Council nutritionist Kathy Chapman said that while the kid-friendly promotional characters may look innocent to the unsuspecting eye, regulations are needed to prevent them from achieving their profiteering motives.  

 ”Food companies invest millions of dollars on attention grabbing promotional characters to encourage children to pester their parents for unhealthy snacks,” she said.  

 The research conducted by Cancer Council NSW with the University of Sydney’s Prevention Research Collaboration found that the market was saturated with characters, including those from favourite movies like Toy Story.

 These characters are being placed on television, billboards, and food packets to build brand loyalty between children and unhealthy products like chocolate, chips, and snack bars.

 ”The problem is one in four Australian children are overweight or obese and behind the characters’ smiles lurk a manipulative advertising tool which make life really tough for parents trying to say no to junk food.    

 Ms Chapman said regulations should prevent companies from promoting junk food to children through characters, competitions, and other tactics designed to sell products packed with harmful ingredients.

 ”What we would really like to see happening is the introduction of regulations that encourage promotional characters for healthy food only.   This would give parents another weapon in their armoury to promote healthy eating to their children,” she said.

 Cancer Council is urging parents and consumers to register their concern about persuasive junk food marketing messages to children and sign up to the Cancer Council’s Junkbusters website: www.junkbusters.com.au    

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Media contact: Luke Alexander, (02) 9334 1878 / 0413 886 578

 Notes to editors

  • The research on promotional characters was conducted by Cancer Council NSW in conjunction with Sydney University.   It was published in the Journal of Nutrition, Education and Behavior on Thursday 8 September 2011.
  •  The supermarket investigation took place in three separate supermarkets:   Coles Leichardt, Woolworths Carlingford, and Aldi Marrickville.
  •  The study looked at 352 products that had promotional characters on their packaging.   Seventy per cent of these were for foods classified as unhealthy.