The report, from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and the Children’s Food Campaign (CFC), calls for tighter regulation.The report said companies employ techniques which many children find difficult to identify as advertising.The report said: “Companies are exploiting gaps in the regulations to target children online with promotions for products that cannot be advertised on children’s television.
Facebook allows children to influence each other because they can ‘like’ a product leading to peer pressure and subtle messages that such products are fashionable.
Researchers behind the report signed up to the Sugar Puffs website and received emails every week over a three-month period as well as the potential to send branded e-cards to friends.
“The marketer must be rubbing their hands with glee because this loophole gives them carte balance to reach eight in 10 children behind their parents’ backs.”
Charlie Powell, campaigns director for the CFC, said: “By its failure to protect children from online junk food marketing, the Government is demonstrating complacency at a time when it should provide robust regulation to help reverse unacceptable levels of obesity in the UK.”
Terry Jones, director of communications at the Food and Drink Federation, which represents the industry, said: “It is disappointing that the report authors have been highly selective over the information presented in order to make yet another of their seasonal attacks on the food industry.
“Advertising in the UK is well governed and rules have recently been revised to include online material.”Paul Wheeler, from Kellogg’s, said: “It is absolute rubbish to say Krave’s digital marketing is aimed at kids as you need to be 17 to follow Krave on Facebook, play the Krave game and take part in our Krave vote.
promotionalactivity by companies on their own websites, on social networking sites and the use of adverb-games and user-generated content.”