The world’s longest-running weekly comic, The Beano, has faced calls to stop promoting junk food after an investigation found many of its quizzes revolved around foods and snacks with high levels of sugar, salt and fat.
Health experts described the content on Benno’s website as “incredibly irresponsible” and urged the company to take action.
Research by the British Medical Journal found that the website, promoted as a digital hub for children aged six to 12, featured products from well-known brands that were harmful to children, including fast food, confectionery, soft drinks and Ultra-Ultra. Processed food.
Since its digital launch in 2016, 47.9 million children have visited beano.com, including frequent references to well-known high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) brands, experts from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found.
Content includes an ‘Ultimate McDonald’s Quiz’, a ‘How Well Do You Know Nando’s Menu’ quiz, and a ‘Skittles Jokes’ page. There is also an ‘Ultimate Food Logo’ quiz, with 10 answers: Greggs, Heinz, Pizza Hut, Nando’s, Subway, Domino’s, Quorn, KFC, Pizza Express and Burger King.
There’s also a quiz that involves alcohol, with the question ‘How long have people been brewing beer?’ Along with the image of the pint being poured, reported the BMJ, which added that there was no suggestion that any of these quizzes were paid for by the brands themselves.
Health experts said they were dismayed by Beano’s willingness to showcase several junk food brands and put them in the forefront of children’s minds, even though it did not take money from the companies.
Kat Jenner, director of nutrition, research, campaigns and policy at the Obesity Health Alliance, said: “This is an incredibly irresponsible way to promote unhealthy eating.”
Boyd Swinburne, professor of population nutrition and global health at the University of Auckland and honorary professor at the Global Obesity Center in Melbourne, said Beno was “naive” in giving the HFSS brand and products “free advertising”.
He called on the comic to stop displaying products harmful to children such as alcohol, fast food, confectionery, soft drinks and ultra-processed food.
“Organizations clever enough to capture and hold the attention of children need to have very high ethical standards to ensure that they do not exploit the same children by promoting unhealthy products to them,” he said.
Henry Dimbleby, lead author of the National Food Strategy, which calls for a salt and sugar tax on processed food, told the BMJ: “People at the Beano might be thinking: ‘Oh, you know, this is a bit of fun. , that’s what kids love.’ But I think it is ubiquitous in society. This stuff invades every aspect of their lives. “
Former health minister James Bethel said: “What angers me about this is just its relentlessness in the lives of young people. There is no escape from it.”
Through quizzes and games, beano.com also collects data on children’s consumption preferences, which is then sold on an anonymous basis to companies that want to know more about what children like and don’t like, the BMJ reported.
The Beano stressed that its surveys meet all legal and data protection obligations and said: “Any suggestion that the Beano is contributing to increasing consumption of HFSS products among children is false, misleading and harmful.”
It added: “We care a lot about what we present to children, especially health and well-being,” adding that its website also runs some positive content about fruit, vegetables and healthy eating, including the “ultimate vegetarian quiz”.