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McDonald's dominates NZ Children's Food Awards

18 January 2005

McDonald's dominates NZ Children's Food Awards

McDonald's has emerged as a leading contender in the second New Zealand Children's Food Awards, whose shortlist was announced at a ceremony at Parliament this afternoon.

This year's awards, coordinated by Green MP Sue Kedgley, concentrate on the exploitative marketing of unhealthy food and drink to children.

"The health of our children is being out at risk by the relentless targeting of unhealthy food to children as young as two," Ms Kedgley, Green Safe Food spokesperson, said.

"Already our children are among the fattest in the world, with 31 percent obese or overweight. This means many of our children are, literally, eating themselves into an early grave."

The shortlist was drawn up by a seven-person judging panel - including a GP, a dietitian, former athletes John Walker and Allison Roe, and Tum Glover of the Maori Welfare League - from a pool of nominations sent in by Kiwi parents who belong to the Parents Centre and the Safe Food Campaign.

McDonald's has been shortlisted for four of the awards' seven categories. Parents criticised the fast-food company for exploitatively marketing its high-fat food to children by using sports star endorsements, toys in Happy Meals, saturation television advertising, and school sponsorship programmes. However, the company was also shortlisted for the "Cleaning Up the Food Chain" award for introducing healthier options on its menu.

Ms Kedgley said the awards gave credit where it was due. "Getting companies to improve the food they offer is one of the aims of the awards."

Mainland Organic Cheese, Pam's, and Watties/Heinz were also nominated for providing children with some healthier food options.

Ms Kedgley said the judging panel is challenging food companies to join the fight to improve New Zealand children's health.

"If we are serious about improving the health of New Zealand children and tackling the obesity epidemic, then manufacturers have to start reformulating their products to reduce the salt, sugar, and fat in them, and to stop targeting children with exploitative marketing strategies.

"These awards send a challenge to those manufacturers shortlisted - including McDonalds, Kellogg's, Coca-Cola, Bluebird and Cadbury - that it is no longer socially acceptable to manipulate the minds and damage the health of our children."

The shortlist (attached) will be opened to a public vote from tomorrow, with winners announced at a ceremony at Parliament in April. Parents can vote at: http://www.greens.org.nz/campaigns/safe-food.

ATTACHMENT: Children's Food Awards Shortlist

New Zealand Children's Food

Awards 2005 shortlist

CATEGORY 1: "Pester Power' Award

For the company with the most manipulative marketing ploy to seduce children into wanting its products.

- Coca-Cola: For using local music stars, large cash prizes, intense sponsorship and vending machines in schools.

- Kellogg's: For using games, CD-ROMs, stickers, and popular TV and film characters in packaging.

- McDonald's: For use of saturation advertising, sporting heroes and toys for children. Said Morgan Spurlock, Super Size Me director: "People see Sarah Ulmer, gold medallist, a tremendous athlete and real role model. McDonald's are tying her name and her image to a restaurant that sells fast food. It's manipulation and it's propaganda."

CATEGORY 2: "Advertising Assault' Award

For a TV advertisement targeted at children and young adolescents that aims to persuade them to eat unhealthy food

- Bluebird Potato Chips: "Penguin' ad for using animated dancing penguins attractive to young children.

- Burger King: "Tall Blacks' ad for using adolescents' sporting heroes.

- Cadbury: "Cadbury World' ad targeting children with animation and sing-along tune.

- McDonald's: "Mum eating salad, child eating combo' advert, for not promoting healthy options for children too. Said teenager NK of Dunedin, "The salads range is just a ploy to get parents in and their kids will eat the fatty foods."

CATEGORY 3: "Trojan Horse' Award

For an insidious advertising campaign that craftily pushes unhealthy food or drink into schools.

- Cadbury: For using chocolate bar sales as school fundraisers. Says PG of Dunedin, "Effectively gets kids out peddling their products in return for a cut, under the guise of "fundraising'."

- Coca-Cola: For sponsoring school sport and pushing vending machines in schools as fundraisers.

- McDonald's: For sponsoring school sport and the "Safe Road Crossing' programme with extensive use of logo.

CATEGORY 4: "Fancy Dress' Award

For the worst example of an unhealthy food product obviously packaged in a way so as to win the hearts of children, enlisting them as sales agents to pester their parents to buy it.

- Kellogg's Bart Simpson "Eat my shorts' Cereal: For brightly-coloured packaging with popular TV character. Said Anon of Invercargill, "I'm not sure what company make these, because I'm too busy scooting my children past, who spot Bart every time."

- Kellogg's Muesli bars: For using popular TV and film characters to attract young and old children.

- Raro Wacko drink sachet: For using gimmick of drink that changes colour.

CATEGORY 5: "Tempting Tots' Award

For an unhealthy food snack that's been shaped and coloured specifically to appeal to young children.

- Arnott's Iced Animals: For using toy-like shapes iced in bright colours from artificial additives. Said Safe Food campaign co-convenor Jacky Pearson: "Iced Animals are a bit of an institution and they could do more to improve - for example, get rid of artificial dyes and lower fat and sugar."

- M&M's: For its high-sugar content and bright colours using artificial additives.

- Wonka Nerd Ropes: Also for its high-sugar content and bright colours using artificial additives.

CATEGORY 6: "Cleanest Greenest Food' Award

For a food that is healthy, locally produced and doesn't need advertising ploys to convince your children to eat it.

- Breast milk: For being local, healthy, and free.

- Fresh fruit and vegetables (preferably organic): For being fresh, local, flavoursome and healthy. Said T & AW of Wellington, "Even a two-year-old can peel mandarins."

- Mainland Organic Cheese: For being tasty and filling and liked by children.

CATEGORY 7: "Cleaning up the Food Chain' Most Improved Award

For a food company that's making an effort to improve the nutritional value of the food products it markets to children.

- McDonald's: For providing healthier options like salad, milk, water, apple chips, fruit bags, etc. Said PG of Dunedin, "For introducing fruit for kids: still a long way to go but it's a start."

- Pam's brand: For a low-cost general product line actively seeking to be GE-free.

- Watties/Heinz: For reducing salt and can sizes, producing organic baby food, and being GE-free.

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