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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 April, 2003, 10:13 GMT 11:13 UK
'Chocolate for footballs' scheme criticised
Cadbury's chocolate
Cadbury says the scheme is healthy

Cadbury has been criticised for a promotional scheme that encourages children to eat large amounts of chocolate in exchange for sports gear.

The Food Commission has criticised the confectioner for a marketing scheme which involves collecting tokens from chocolate bars in exchange for school sports equipment.

The commission says the scheme is absurd and contradictory.

It says if children consumed all the promotional chocolate bars they would eat nearly two million kilos of fat and more than 36 billion calories.

Endorsed by minister for sport Richard Caborn as well as top athletes, the Cadbury Get Active marketing drive is being promoted with the Youth Sport Trust.

Volleyball - 320 chocolate bars
Cricket set - 2,730 bars
Basketball - 170 bars
Volleyball posts - 5,440 bars, costing 2,000 with 1.25m calories

One newspaper calculated that under the scheme, one set of posts and nets for volleyball would require tokens from 5,440 bars.

The Food Commission pointed out this would entail children spending more than 2,000 on chocolate and wolfing their way through 1.25 million calories.

If the UK's pupils were to collect all of the 160 million tokens, they would be purchasing 2 million kilos of fat.

A 10-year-old child eating enough chocolate to get his school a basketball would need to play the game for 90 hours to burn off the calories consumed, the Guardian reported.

It is ridiculous to combine a fitness campaign with eating chocolate
Tim Lobstein
Food Commission

The chairman of the government's obesity taskforce, Professor Phil James, said: "This is a classic example of how the food and soft drink industry are failing to take on board that they are major contributors to obesity problems throughout the world.

"They always try to divert attention to physical activity. Independent analysts have found Cadbury Schweppes has one of the worst portfolios for products in terms of children's well-being."

Tim Lobstein, Food Commission director, said: "The amounts of chocolate involved for these 'gifts' is quite astounding.

My daughter is 11 and 11 stone
Helen Moore, S. Wales

"It is ridiculous to combine a fitness campaign with eating chocolate."

Sheila McKechnie, director of the Consumers' Association, said: "Linking exercise to the consumption of chocolate is nothing short of a scandal.

"While it is fine to indulge once in a while, this type of corporate exploitation of children has to stop."

But Cadbury is adamant that the scheme will not specifically encourage children to eat more chocolate, instead suggesting the scheme allows the wider community to help schools.

"Get Active isn't about children single-handedly collecting sports equipment for their school," a spokesman said.

"It's about the wider community clubbing together to use their wrappers from the chocolate they're already eating.

"Cadbury is proud to offer up to 9m of free, unbranded sports equipment to help kids become more active."

A spokesman for the sports minister's department said: "Children will eat chocolate anyway and we want them to do it in the context of an active life.

"If that's what this achieves, it will have been a success."

The BBC's Adam Parsons
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