U.K. suggests eliminating cartoon characters from unhealthy food

Tony talking to two boys at Cereal City
Tony talking to two boys at Cereal City
Photo: Jeffrey Greenberg (UIG via Getty Images)

The U.K. continues to crack down hard on its obesity problem, as organizations like Public Health England suggest limitations of 1600 calories a day for the average adult diet. The nation also is concerned about the health of its youngest citizens, since the BBC asserts that “almost 60 percent more children in their last year of primary school are classified as ‘severely obese’ than in their first year, according to Public Health England figures for England and Wales,” suggesting that students’ weight problems worsen as they get older.

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In an effort to combat the U.K.’s worsening health, the BBC reports that “cartoon or fictional characters, like Tony The Tiger and the Milky Bar Kid, should no longer be used to promote unhealthy food, a group of MPs says.” The suggested ban is part of a list of suggestions that also includes removing sweets from supermarket checkout areas, price promotions on junk food, and brand sponsorship of youth leagues and sports clubs by unhealthy products.

Whether this ban ever takes effect remains to be seen. After all, characters like Toucan Sam, Lucky The Elf, and that infernal tiger have been around since prepackaged breakfast cereals first became popular in the mid-20th century. Although the U.S. was able to rid cartoons like Joe Camel from cigarette promotions about 20 years ago, it’s hard to imagine that Tony The Tiger’s time has finally come.

Meanwhile, the U.K. government has “already introduced a sugar tax on fizzy drinks, but the MPs called on it to go further with ‘fiscal measures.’” The Department Of Health “said its plan to tackle childhood obesity was ‘the most ambitious in the world,’” and so far that certainly appears to be true.

Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.

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DISCUSSION

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I don’t think Toucan Sam or the Lucky Elf would mean anything to kids in the UK. (Growing up I only knew Rocky and Bullwinkle from cereal ads in American comics). But some supermarkets do have their own cereal pack characters.

I can’t recall the last time I saw a Tony the Tiger ad on tv, even though he is still on the (cardboard) box. Or Snap, Crackle, and Pop even though Rice Krispies multi-Grain Shapes sponsor CITV. The Coco Pops Monkey still haunts the screen for sure. Again, this might say something about the MPs because there doesn’t seem to be a current incarnation of the Milky Bar Kid? In fact their “Wowsomes” ad pushes a low sugar treat and there is no sign of the old theme song.

This ad is about eight years old now.

Likewise, I haven’t seen a Honey Monster ad for Sugar Puffs in yonks. I think they rebranded after a takeover.

They seem to like the Jolly Green Giant though (absent from the goggle box as well I think), so go figure.

Back 1968-9, Roberta Leigh edited a comic for Tesco, Fun’n’Games, which featured some rather bizarre strips based on grocery items. The Jolly Green Giant was in there, so was Captain BirdsEye (hey, he’s back on the tv), Shreddie Boy, and others that elude my mind.

Hey, do you suppuse they have it in for the Shreddies’ Nanas?