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A review in the US of the use of brand mascots and media characters has called for strengthening of advertising to children commitments to cover characters on food packaging and toy giveaways and other premiums. As well, the authors call for uniform standards to define healthy food that can be marketed to children and that advertisements be monitored for compliance to policies.

The systematic review found that mascots and other media characters show promise in encouraging children to eat fruits and vegetables but have a more powerful influence on children’s preferences for biscuits and confectionery. This is cause for concern given discretionary foods such as biscuits and confectionery are replacing more healthy foods in children’s diets.

Robert Johnson Foundation, Issue Brief March 2016, The use of brand mascots and media characters: opportunities for responsible food marketing to children.

Busted

Taiwan has introduced restrictions on food marketing to children to curb the 8,000 junk food ads kids see every year. Advertisements for unhealthy food are no longer permitted on children’s channels between 5pm and 9pm. Unhealthy foods are defined as foods with more than 30% of the total calorie count, more than 10% calories in saturated fat, more than 10% calories in added sugars or over 400mg sodium per serving. The promotion of toys with food is also banned.