Experts urge Beano to stop promoting junk food brands online
Its mischievous characters have entertained generations, but health experts say Beano is a menace for promoting junk food.
An investigation into the iconic comic’s website found it frequently featured games and quizzes on foods high in salt, sugar and fat, as part of its entertainment.
Health campaigners branded the likes of the ‘Ultimate McDonald’s Quiz,’ and ‘How Well do you know the Nando’s Menu’ quiz as ‘incredibly irresponsible’.
They are calling on the company to stop promoting fast-food as ‘cool’ to its millions of child readers.
Beano’s website describes itself as ‘100 per cent safe for children’ with 47.9million children having visited since its launch in 2016.
Beano comic’s website found it frequently featured games and quizzes on foods high in salt, sugar and fat, as part of its entertainment
But researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found it regularly showcased products from well-known brands including fast food, confectionery, soft drinks and ultra-processed food.
This included an ‘Ultimate Food Logo’ quiz, with the ten answers: Greggs, Heinz, Pizza Hut, Nando’s, Subway, Domino’s, Quorn, KFC, Pizza Express and Burger King.
There was even a quiz that features alcohol, with the question ‘how long have humans been making beer for?’ accompanied by an image of a pint being poured, according to the report in the British Medical Journal.
While there is no suggestion Beano has taken payment from any of the brands, public health experts are calling for tougher curbs on promotion of unhealthy foods.
One in five reception-age children are now overweight or obese, rising to almost four in ten by the time the leave primary school, with junk food thought to be fuelling the crisis.
They suggest the company has an ‘ethical duty’ to safeguard children’s health.
Henry Dimbleby, lead author of the National Food Strategy, which called for a salt and sugar tax on processed food, said: ‘People at Beano might be thinking: ‘Oh, well, you know, it’s just a little bit of fun, that’s what the kids like.’
‘But I just think it is all pervasive in society. This stuff invades every element of their lives.’
Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found Beano regularly showcased products from well-known brands including fast food, confectionery, soft drinks and ultra-processed food
WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?
Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS
• Eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count
• Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain
• Thirty grams of fibre a day. This is the same as eating all of the following: Five portions of fruit and vegetables, two whole-wheat cereal biscuits, two thick slices of wholemeal bread and a large baked potato with the skin on
• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks), choosing lower fat and lower sugar options
• Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including two portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)
• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts
• Drink six to eight cups/glasses of water a day
• Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men a day
Source: NHS Eatwell Guide
Kat Jenner, director of nutrition, research, campaigns, and policy at the Obesity Health Alliance, added: ‘It is an incredibly irresponsible way of promoting unhealthy food.’
Experts say even the delayed new rules on junk food advertising would not apply to this as no payment has been received.
It means companies can continue showcasing many burgers, pizzas, crisps, and fizzy drinks or from suggesting that these brands were ‘cool’ write the authors.
Another example given was a game fronted by one of its characters Minnie the Minx who has ‘been served up a plate of vile veg and she needs your help to eat them and defeat them!’.
J Bernadette Moore, associate professor of obesity at the University of Leeds, said children were effectively being taught to shun healthy food.
She said: ‘This idea that children won’t like healthy food pervades all aspects of our society.
‘Yet companies with such extensive young audiences must acknowledge that they are not merely reflecting child preferences but shaping them.’
Beano insists that its surveys meet all legal and data protection obligations, adding that ‘any suggestion that Beano is somehow contributing to increased consumption of HFSS products in children is false, misleading and damaging.’
It said it takes ‘enormous care in what we present to children particularly around health and wellbeing, adding that its website also runs some positive content about fruit, vegetables, and healthy eating, including the ‘Ultimate Vegetarian Quiz’.
A Beano spokesperson said: ‘Beano takes kids’ health and wellbeing seriously.
‘We care deeply about our young audience, making every decision with their interests at heart.
‘The article does not, in our view, accurately reflect the overall Beano.com experience – a safe, informative and entertaining online space that provides kids with age-appropriate, compliant content on topics of interest that they search for to help them navigate and understand the world around them.
‘Around five per cent of the content found on beano.com features food or drink. Children may visit beano.com having searched for jokes about Skittles, but will also find pictures of broccoli, apples, pineapples and many other fruit and vegetables on other pages.
‘Beer and wine facts – found in less than one per cent of the quizzes on beano.com – are consistent with those within the KS1 and KS2 National Curriculum history programmes.
‘Beano.com’s ability to engage, inform and encourage kids to eat more vegetables was endorsed when it was chosen by VegPower and ITV as a media partner for the launch of the multi award-winning, behaviour change campaign Eat Them to Defeat Them in 2019.
‘Bafflingly – and indicative in our view of the BMJ authors’ selective focus – they chose to cite one of the quizzes in that campaign as evidence of encouraging a negative influence on kids’ attitudes to healthy eating, when the intent of the content in the context of that campaign was clearly the opposite.’