A U.K.-based public interest charity has filed 54 separate complaints with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) contending that the subject companies, including Cadbury and Pringle’s, are promoting food products high in sugars, fat or salt to children online. Described by the Children’s Food Campaign (CFC) as a “super complaint,” the case reflects the findings of a report the charity released in December 2011 claiming that food advertisers use brand characters, animations, games, competitions, and videos online and through social media to heavily market junk food to children. It calls for the U.K. government to close a loophole allowing ads for products that cannot be aired during children’s programming to be freely promoted online.
According to CFC spokesperson Malcolm Clark, youth marketing standards applicable to TV should be matched online. The existing code apparently states, “marketing communications must not condone or encourage poor nutritional habits or an unhealthy lifestyle in children.”
When CFC corresponded with Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries Ed Vaizey about its report, he purportedly indicated that the ASA will take concerns over irresponsible food advertising seriously and that the advertising industry body, established to apply voluntary codes of practice and avoid regulation, encourages complaints when advertising rules are believed to have been broken. CFC hopes to force the oversight body to define vague terms in its standards. See Sustainweb.org, Foodnavigator.com, The Telegraph, Channel 4 News, February 9, 2012.