Children warned of junk-food marketing techniques by new website

LONDON - Children as young as 11 are being warned about the way food companies use impulse triggers and merchandising as part of a campaign to help them resist junk-food marketing.

A new website called Chew on This will show children different strategies used by food companies to get them to buy their products, under the heading "Who is messing with my mind?"

One section shows a man standing next to a display of chocolates. The text reads: "This man's job is to think of new ways to sell chocolate. He arranges for shops to display products near where people have to queue. He says the reason he does this is to 'put temptation within the shopper's reach'.

"Next time you're in a shop, look around when you're near the checkout. Salesmen know you are likely to be tired, hungry and annoyed about having to queue -- in just the right mood to reach out and grab an extra snack."

The website is part of the Food Commission's campaign to help children fight back against what it describes as the "onslaught" of junk-food marketing, and thus tackle the problem of obesity.

Along with an extensive look at advertising, marketing and sports sponsorship, the site has information on food labelling and nutrition, and highlights the way packaging imagery can bear little relation to what is in the product.

It includes activity sheets where children can put themselves in the role of a marketer and try to create products that appeal to children.

The commission lobbies for a complete ban on marketing junk food to children, but says that until it succeeds, children need to be more savvy about how they are being targeted.

In particular, new methods of marketing to children via text messages, product placement in computer games and the internet have come under fire.

Kath Dalmeny of the Food Commission said: "Marketers are using techniques that fly under the radar of parental control, using new technologies to build direct relationships with children."

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