Shopping giveaway 'harming children'
Gareth Morgan has thrown his weight behind claims that supermarket chain New World is "brainwashing" children with its Little Shop toys.
But the company that owns the supermarkets says the collectable miniature grocery items are educational and, on the whole, promote healthy eating.
A post on Morgan's website, written by his offsider Geoff Simmons, is headlined: "New World wants to turn your kids into mindless zombie consumers."
According to Simmons, New World is encouraging "pester power" with the collectibles.
Morgan promoted the post out to his almost 7500 Twitter followers with the message: "You should be outraged over how New World is brainwashing kids."
Morgan then wrote a post today, attacking New World's response.
''Let's have a look at the facts. Of the fifty [sic] items in the Little Shop, 34 are edible (I wouldn't grace them with the word 'food'). Of those, nine are clearly junk food, and another six are pretty borderline nutrition wise and would probably be classed as 'sometimes food'.
''If these are considered 'occasional treats', why are only half of them foods fit to be eaten everyday? Is Little Shop supposed to be representative of our diet? If so it is a long way from Ministry of Health recommendations.''
Simmons wrote that the "tactic has long been used by fast food companies to lure in kids. Now it is being used as part of the war between the supermarket duopoly".
He said New World was cultivating a taste for unhealthy food because many of the miniatures were high in sugar.
"The problem is that, like most advertising, only the companies that can afford it will take part. Those are the companies with bigger margins, which usually means they are selling highly processed food, stripped of nutrients and packed full of sugar, fat and salt."
Governments had, through "weak-kneed" self-regulation of food advertising to children, allowed a loophole through which food companies could advertise directly to children, Simmons said, calling for a ban on "manipulative junk food advertising to kids".
But Foodstuffs spokeswoman Antoinette Shallue said when New World last had Little Shop items they were used to teach children about healthy eating, maths and other subjects.
"This sort of positive play and education for children is a good thing and we are very proud of our Little Shop promotion."
She took exception to the claims about the nutritional value of the items, saying they were "representative of the everyday products our customers buy". This year they included fresh vegetables, fruit and meat.
There was also milk and cheese, which had health benefits.
"[The post] has primarily pulled out products which we would consider either treats or occasional foods or to be used in small quantities, and we believe are not representative of the overall product selection included in Little Shop."
Simmons cited a call from Otago University Wellington researchers earlier this year to ban "manipulative junk food advertising to children" in order too fight growing childhood obesity.
The Dominion Post