Ad groups lob criticism at Food Commission

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[London] Advertisers' groups have slammed a U.K. Web site that warns children about the dangers they face from companies marketing and advertising "junk food," as "biased."

The site,, which was launched last week by British independent watchdog The Food Commission, asks "Who's messing with my mind?" and tells kids that "food companies have a lot of tricks up their sleeves for persuading you to choose their products."

As part of the animated site, kids are encouraged to "visit the adman's office and find out some of his secrets." It also lists "tricks" employed by marketers, such as linking junk food to soccer and advertising in schools. It name-checks celebrities, cartoon characters, toys and films that have links with specific food and drink brands.

The Food Commission says it aims to empower children ages 11 to 14 with knowledge about the food they eat and about the "enormous advertising budgets available to junk-food manufacturers." It is lobbying 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.

Stephan Loerke, managing director of the World Federation of Advertisers, commented: "I think it is very symptomatic of single-issue [non-governmental organizations] who tend to reduce the debate on obesity to commercial communication, when in fact it is a multi-factor issue. Educating children about food is obviously very important, but at the very least the site is biased and I would hope there is a way to do it in a more informative and neutral way. It's frustrating more than anything else."

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