A group of MPs have proposed that characters such as Tony the Tiger and the Honey Monster should not be used to sell sugary or fatty products to kids. Would a ban of this type really help to reduce child obesity in Britain?
In an unlikely development, Tony the Tiger of Frosties fame has found himself at the forefront of British politics. Tony the Tiger very effectively uses his goofy, childlike, celebrity image to “peddle rubbish” to the public, but he’s not running for Foreign Secretary, he’s actually been threatened with a complete ban by a group of MPs who think that using his image to sell sugary breakfast cereals to kids is irresponsible.
This isn’t the first time Tony has hit the headlines. Just last year, Kelloggs tried to get around child obesity sugar rules by claiming that he was a mascot marketed to adults, not kids. Everyone knows, though, that Crunchy Nut is the adult version of Frosties.
The ban isn’t just aimed at Tony however. The Health and Social Care Select Committee have called for a blanket ban on “brand-generated characters or licensed TV and film characters” in the advertising of products high in sugar, salt, or fat to kids. Is this proposed ban a genuinely helpful move toward a healthier Britain or an act of unnecessary censorship?
Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver is at the forefront of the campaign to ban the use of friendly animated characters in the advertising of sugary products to young kids. He’s angered by the idea that companies are using cartoons and superheroes to “peddle rubbish” amid reports yesterday that one in 25 children aged 10 or 11 in the UK are “severely obese”.
Oliver, who famously spearheaded the turkey twizzler ban in schools, warned that Prime Minister Theresa May needed to act now as “the future of the NHS is at stake”. Back in 2016, The Telegraph reported that the NHS spent £16 billion a year “on the direct medical costs of diabetes and conditions related to being overweight or obese”.
Earlier in this month, Oliver claimed that “now is the time for a sort of environmental, multifaceted, you know, mega-pronged attack to protect child health. That means everyone. Business, the workplace, government, schools, parents, supermarkets.”
Dr Sarah Wollaston who is a Conservative MP and chairs the Health and Social Care Select Committee, said that, “obesity rates are highest for children from the most disadvantaged communities and this unacceptable health inequality has widened every year since records began.”
“Children are becoming obese at an earlier age and staying obese for longer” she added.
There are some, however, who think the ban isn’t necessary. Stephen Woodford, chief executive of the Advertising Association, told the BBC that the UK has “among the strictest rules in the world” on promoting products that are high in fat, sugar and salt to under-16s.”
He also added that measures such as an 9pm watershed would be an effective way of tackling the “root causes” of obesity in children which he says are “linked to a whole range of factors, including socio-economic background, ethnicity and educational attainment,”
Issues of class or “socio-economic background” are aspects that Jamie Oliver has received criticism for in the past for not considering in his campaigning. His recent proposed ban of buy one get one free, (BOGOF) offers was questioned for its lack of consideration for low-income families who often rely on special offers.
Writing for the Huffington Post, Katarzyna Bukowicki claimed that “On the surface, it looks like a noble goal – to make Britain healthier – but when you specifically target cheap junk food and promote expensive junk food, it becomes clear that this is nothing more than an attack on working class people.”
She went on to say that Oliver should instead “focus on the inequalities and factors that lead people down the path of food poverty and spend less time worrying about the working class families who are treating themselves to pizza for a night.”