Peppa Pig and other popular cartoon characters shouldn’t appear on ‘unhealthy’ food products, campaigners are urging.
The calls come after research revealed more than half (51%) of 526 food and drink products that use child-friendly cartoons in their packaging were “shockingly” high in fat, saturated fat and sugar and/or salt.
Action on Sugar and Action on Salt, together with the Children’s Food Campaign, are jointly calling on the government to ban cartoon characters on packs and to mandate ‘traffic light’ nutritional labelling.
Registered nutritionist Dr Kawther Hashem, campaign lead at Action on Sugar, who is based at Queen Mary University of London, said: “It’s shocking that companies are exploiting the health of our children by using cartoon characters on their high sugar food and drink products, particularly on chocolates and sweets, which are already hard to resist for children.
“Do we really need to entice children to want these products more and pester their parents to buy them? It is time for regulation to curtail the industry’s unhealthy habit.”
The campaign groups said if marketing on children’s packaging were to follow the same advertising codes set by the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice, half would fail the eligibility criteria and not be allowed to target audiences under the age of 16.
One in five (21%) of the products analysed used licensed characters (including from Disney, Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol) that are widely recognised by young children. More than a third (37%) of these were found on confectionery, chocolate, cakes and ice cream – 32 of the 94 products using licensed characters have a red label for either fat, saturated fat, sugars and/or salt.
In particular, more than half of products (57%) featuring Paw Patrol characters and half of those with Peppa Pig imagery were high in fat, salt and/or sugar. And of the 434 products whose brand mascots directly appealed to children, 53% would receive a red (high) warning label for sugar.
Barbara Crowther from the Children’s Food Campaign said: “The food brands know how much power these cartoon characters have on children’s preferences – that’s why millions of pounds change hands in licensing deals each year.”
She said that parents told researchers their kids’ favourite characters resulted in them pestering for sweets and snacks – and that they “overwhelmingly supported the idea of a ban”.
Only 18 healthy food and drink products (including fruit, vegetables and water) used child friendly animations on packaging. Lidl came out as the best retailer in this respect for its Oaklands range of fruit and vegetables.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.