Advert branded ‘irresponsible’ for linking sugary sweets to smiling

The British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy has branded a Rowntree’s advert as misleading for its portrayal of sugary sweets being linked to happiness and smiling
The BSDHT has branded a Rowntree’s advert as misleading for its portrayal of sugary sweets being linked to happiness and smiling

A leading health organisation is urging the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to investigate the Rowntree’s ‘The Smile Factory’ advert after branding it hugely misleading and irresponsible for its portrayal of sugary sweets being linked to happiness and smiling.

The British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT) has taken exception to the advertising campaign, which suggests consuming Rowntree’s Fruit Pastilles, Randoms, Jelly Tots, Tooty Frooties and Fruit Gums is good for your smile and is calling for more health considerations to be made when advertising sugary foods.

More than 33,000 children in the UK underwent tooth extractions last year due to rotten teeth while sugar has also been named as one of the key factors in the obesity epidemic.

Michaela ONeill, president of the BSDHT, says sweet manufacturers must have an ethical responsibility to safeguard public health.

Ms ONeill says: ‘While many of us will suffer from having a “sweet tooth” and enjoy sugar in moderation, having an advertising campaign positively linking sugary sweets to the smile is dangerous and reckless.

‘Not only does the name of this campaign imply that sweets are good for smiles, by proxy it also positively links sugar with good oral health. The manufacturer behind it should have taken greater steps to act more responsibly for the benefit of the public’s health.

‘Not only are these sweets full of sugar but they are chewy and sticky too. This means the sugar will stick to the biting surface of the teeth and linger in the mouth for longer. The sugars will then react to the acids in our mouth and if eaten frequently, will lead to dental erosion and tooth decay.’

Rowntree’s Fruit Pastilles contain more than 55% sugar while Tootie Frooties are made up of more than 70% sugar.

The BSDHT has expressed its surprise regarding its approval given a clampdown on junk food advertising was singled out as a priority by advisers at Public Health England. The society is now urging the advertising watchdog to investigate the campaign.

Sugar strategy

It also appears the effect of sugar on children’s oral health and on childhood obesity has seemingly become one of the first casualties of the government reshuffle.

Alistair Burt MP, Ben Gummer MP and Jane Ellison MP are three key ministers to have left the Department of Health over the last week.

A publication of the sugar strategy, which was due to be released this week, is now rumoured to have been postponed to the autumn. What’s more, if a recent report featured in The Times is accurate, the fight against sugar could to be left in the hands of the food companies.

The leaked report also suggests that a proposed ban on junk food advertising on television before the 9pm watershed is not part of the impending strategy.

‘The BSDHT, along with hundreds of other health bodies, have campaigned vigorously for the government to ban junk food adverts on TV before the 9pm watershed as a fundamental measure to help reduce the nation’s sugar intake,’ added Ms ONeill.

‘We believe this action, along with a more stringent “sugar tax”, will go a long way to significantly improve the nation’s oral health while also helping to address the obesity crisis.

‘As dental hygienists and dental therapists, we see first-hand the damage that sugar causes, and particularly with children the results can be heart-breaking. Advertising bans on sugary foods and drinks, along with more broadcasting promoting healthier alternatives will give people in the UK the best possible chance of a healthy life and reduce the amount of sugar we consume.

‘Although “The Smile Factory” campaign does not directly target children, its bright colours and cartoon-like nature will undoubtedly appeal to that audience. We urge all sweet manufacturers to think more carefully about their advertising campaigns in the future and about the health implications of their messaging.’

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