04 Jun 2019

Campaigners have called for action after a survey of food and drink products using cartoons on their packs found that 50% were unnecessarily high in fat, sugar and/or salt. This marketing can prod parents into purchasing 'dangerously' unhealthy products which encourage pester power and excessive consumption, researchers say.

The research by Action on Sugar and Action on Salt, based at Queen Mary University of London studied 526 food and drink products that display cartoons on their packs. Many of these products included licensed characters that are very recognisable to young children.

Sonia Pombo, Campaign Lead at Action on Salt based at Queen Mary’s Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, said: “Parents want to make healthy choices for their children, but companies are not making this easy for them. The food industry has a moral duty to stop putting profits first and sell their products responsibly. There is plenty of opportunity for companies to either reformulate and make their products healthier, or make their already healthier products more appealing to children. Until then, the government must intervene and ensure all food and drink manufacturers at least display ‘traffic light’ labelling so parents can see, at a glance, what is in the food.”

Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary’s Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and Chairman of Action on Sugar and Action on Salt said: “Many of the food products exposed in our survey present a serious risk to the future health and wellbeing of children. High sugar products increase the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, various cancers and tooth decay and high salt products put up blood pressure, which leads to cardiovascular disease later in life. The government needs to restrict the use of such packaging on unhealthy products including marketing them to children.”