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Taiwan government urged to regulate junk food marketing aimed at children

Fast food chains give away free popular free toys along with Happy Children's Meal, targeting at children on summer vacation in this July 26 2008 file...

Fast food chains give away free popular free toys along with Happy Children's Meal, targeting at children on summer vacation in this July 26 2008 file...

The Consumers' Foundation called on the government Wednesday to regulate marketing strategies for unhealthy food that targets children, in light of children's susceptibility to promotional tactics such as special package designs and the offer of free toys.

The foundation made the call ahead of March 15 World Consumer Rights Day, which focuses this year on the theme "Junk Food Generation."

In a survey conducted March 9 by the foundation among 88 students at the Taipei Municipal Hu Shih Elementary School, 92 percent of the respondents said they are aware that junk food is potentially harmful to their health, and 85 percent said they know what kinds of food are unhealthy.

However, 51 percent of the respondents said they would be tempted to buy unhealthy food because of the free toys offered or the cartoon designs on the packages.

Meanwhile, in a sampling of 33 snack products purchased from 7-Eleven, Hi-Life and Family Mart convenience stores, it was found that 19, or 58 percent, had had cartoon designs on the packages or included free toys. Eight of the samples included both.

Foundation chairman Hsieh Tien-jen (謝天仁) said the use of such marketing tactics is apparently intended to encourage high consumption among children, which can lead to obesity and other health concerns.

Citing estimates from the International Obesity Taskforce, Hsieh said at least 155 million, or 10 percent of school-aged children worldwide are overweight or obese, with around 30-45 million within that figure classified as obese.

Consumer International has launched a campaign to stop the marketing of unhealthy food targeting children, and consumer rights groups in the United States, Australia, South America, China, Malaysia and South Africa are also promoting drives against the use of cartoon package designs for junk food and the offer of free toys as a promotional tactic, he said.

To help consumers get a quick idea of whether the foods sold on the market are healthy, he suggested that Taiwan follow the example of the United Kingdom, which has adopted a "traffic light" food label system that simplifies label-reading by marking products red, yellow or green, according to levels of fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt in processed foods.


Updated : 2021-03-04 15:23 GMT+08:00