In a report called ‘Through the back door', the Children's Food Campaign levels heavy criticism at school-focused promotions which it says accounts for £300m a year of UK companies' marketing spend.
According to the report, two thirds of the curriculum packs that the Children's Food Campaign surveyed contained company logos on materials accessed by children, two thirds contained promotions for a product and two thirds contained misinformation. Every pack surveyed had at least one of the above.
The report turns the spotlight on a Vimto-sponsored pack which encouraged teachers to use English lessons to promote the Nichols-owned drink as pupils were urged to write a poem in praise of Vimto for National Poetry Day. A pack sponsored by Premier Foods' Hovis which said that cereal foods help memory, is also highlighted by the research as the Food Standards Agency does not support this claim.
A Nichols spokeswoman said the promotion mentioned in the report ran in 2004 and Vimto is no longer promoted in schools in accordance with current guidelines.
The European Snack Association, which is sponsored by Pringles, KP and Walkers, comes under fire for saying that an apple has less vitamins and minerals than a packet of crisps but neglecting to mention it has no fat.
‘We were flabbergasted by some of the claims in these packs,' said campaign coordinator Richard Watts. ‘We found nutrition lesson plans about the benefits of eating crisps, claiming that colourings in fizzy drinks were to restore the fruit's natural colour, and telling children to only eat fruit and vegetables in moderation. Promoting junk food in the classroom under the guise of education is unacceptable.
‘The dodgy claims in these packs are written to be taught to children as fact in a lesson. Parents may have no idea that this is happening. Our investigation shows that the food industry cannot be trusted to provide children with unbiased nutritional information,' he added.
Report co-author Lianna Hulbert said that many of these claims would be banned in television or press advertising and called for increased regulation of the packs by the Department for Children, Schools and Families instead of the ‘toothless' guidelines currently in place.
Hovis and the European Snack Association were unavailable for comment.