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Fast-Food Companies Expose Children to Their Junk Ads Via the Internet

A few months ago, I warned you about one of the newer, more insidious ways junk food companies can attract the attention of children without a TV: Web sites featuring games and not-so-subtle commercial enticements. A report from Which?, the UK counterpart of the Consumers Union in America, identified some 20 different marketing schemes conducted by a dozen multinational companies to market their junk to kids.

Some involve kid's meals and toys tied with themes from recent movies featuring the X-Men, Superman and SpongeBob Square Pants, a common occurrence on this side of the pond. And, even though Coca-Cola execs claim they don't expressly market their health-harming sugary products to children under age 12, considering the company is a sponsor of World Cup matches, kids still make that mental leap to link an ice cold Coke to soccer anyway.

Even worse are viral campaigns launched on the Internet to grab the attention of youngsters that often slip past the attention of most parents. Take, for example, Nestle launching a "milk shake" Web site, complete with children's games and other sites that encourage kids to e-mail cartoon messages embedded with a brand message.

Of course, if there was unabashed truth in advertising, instead of "happy meals," kids would be seeing real images of what their fast-food burgers and French fries look like before they're cooked, a sickening and unpleasant sight indeed.

More evidence, parents must step up to the plate and carefully monitor what their children spend time watching on the Net and the tube to prevent the epidemic of childhood obesity from spreading. Kids may not appreciate those limits today, but they will later...

Belfast Telegraph November 24, 2006