Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Feature BMJ Investigation

Big Macs and the Beano: Is it time for the comic to drop the junk food brands?

BMJ 2023; 380 doi: (Published 01 February 2023) Cite this as: BMJ 2023;380:p197

The Beano website describes itself as “100% safe for children”—but is its junk food related content doing more harm than good? Claire Mulrenan, Mark Petticrew, and Harry Wallop investigate

Rapid Response:

Re: Big Macs and the Beano: Is it time for the comic to drop the junk food brands?

Dear Editor,

I was sorry to read that the Beano has been using my data and that of other children to support advertising campaigns for unhealthy foods. As a child, it is hard to avoid being lured into the belief that ultra processed foods are necessary, normal and nutritious. From Peppa Pig to Snap, Crackle and Pop, we are surrounded by images that entice us children to consume foods which rot our teeth and increase our weight. Where can we turn to? Whom can we trust? Beano is a trusted brand which has many good features - for example, inclusion of minority figures, characters with physical disabilities and great jokes. In view of the problems uncovered by BMJ, I would like to make the following suggestions to prevent harms associated with inadvertent promotion of unhealthy food at the Beano:

1. Actively promote healthy foods such as vegetables on the website and in the comic, making them sound exciting and fun

2. Delete some of the games on the website which glorify unhealthy food and/or suggest that healthy foods are disgusting

3. Reduce incentives on the website for children to spend excessive time on screens - for example, the website could time out after 1 hour to prevent children from spending more than 1 hour on the site in a single session

4. Stop using random questions to harvest information about children's preferences and sell them to companies

5. Introduce a new policy about which companies the Beano will work with, avoiding companies which harm children in their adverts or in what they sell

As you can see, the main problem is the website rather than the magazine, however it would be good if the magazine could also promote healthy eating.

Yours sincerely,

Maria Boyle
Year 6 student, London

Competing interests: No competing interests

06 February 2023
Maria Boyle
School Student (year 6)
My dad helped with typing this