According to the Sunday Telegraph the UK Government's food watchdog, the Food Standards Agency (FSA), is proposing to ban junk food companies from sponsoring pop concerts and sports to combat obesity among children. The FSA says its targets would include Pepsi-Cola (which sponsors concerts by Britney Spears, Miss Dynamite, Beyonce and Enrique Iglesias) and Coca-Cola (which sponsors boy band Busted and girl band Mis-Teeq). McDonald's, the sponsor of Justin Timberlake and ITV's Pop Rivals, and Nestle, which supports ITV's Pop Idol, would also be affected by a ban.

In a consultation paper, the FSA says that pop stars should be used to promote healthy food instead of junk food, which has contributed to a doubling in the number of children with weight problems in the past 10 years. The proposal would have a profound effect on Britain's multi-million-pound sponsorship industry. McDonald's and Pepsi-Cola would be unable to sponsor the England football team, while the Sheffield Wednesday football club would lose its sponsorship from Chupa Chups lollipops. Walkers crisps' £3.5 million deal with Gary Lineker, the television presenter and former England football captain, would be under threat, as would Domino Pizza's deal with The Simpsons, according to the consultation paper, which also criticises advertising techniques used by Cadbury's and Kinder Eggs. Billboard and magazine advertising aimed at children and "pop-up" advertisements on the internet would be banned. Junk food companies would be barred from linking up with computer games and competitions and from targeting mobile telephones by text message when their owners are near a food outlet.

The companies are expected to resist any attempt to interfere with sponsorship. Pepsi-Cola's deal with the Football Association is worth an estimated £4 million, with long-term returns estimated at five times that figure. A spokesman for Walkers, which has used Michael Owen, Vinnie Jones, Victoria Beckham and the Spice Girls in its advertising, said: "We would vigorously defend our right to continue to use any high-profile personality in our campaigns". McDonald's however said it welcomed "the opportunity to be involved in the debate with the FSA". A spokesman said that the chain had put £14 million into local football sponsorship since 1993. "Our sponsorship will make it possible for 10,000 people to become football coaches", he said. The pop industry has also criticised the proposals. Julian Henry, who represents Pop Idol, S Club and MTV, said: "Record labels have become dependent on brands that want to support new pop talent. With sales of singles dwindling, brand investment is a critical part of the success of a new pop act. Part of the Spice Girls' appeal was that they could reach consumers in supermarkets and garage forecourts as well as on Radio One and Top of the Pops".

The IPKat wonders whether the proposals will have the desired effect. After all, it’s not as if sponsorship is the only way the junk food merchants can catch their target market. However, the cost of dealing with the medical problems brought on by obesity is expected to cost the UK £3.6 billion a year by 2010 and that’s a far bigger sum than the amount likely to be spent by then on sponsorship.

Smart food, junk food here
In praise of junk food here and here
Dangers of junk food here and here


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