CCFC to Health and Human Services: Fire Shrek; Conflict of Interest between Marketing Junk Food and Promoting Public Health

Date of Release: 

Thursday, April 26, 2007

April 26, 2007
Contact: Josh Golin (617-896-9369; josh<at>   
For Immediate Release

  CCFC to Health and Human Services:  Fire Shrek
Conflict of Interest between Marketing Junk Food and Promoting Public Health

Citing the numerous junk food promotions linked to Dreamworks’ May 18th  release of Shrek the Third, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) has launched a letter-writing campaign to urge the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to remove  Shrek from his role as spokescharacter for the department’s healthy lifestyles and childhood obesity campaign.  CCFC found seventeen separate food promotions for Shrek the Third featuring more than seventy different products, most of which are for energy-dense, low-nutrient foods. Many of the promotions are targeted directly to preschoolers and children as young as two.

“There is an inherent conflict of interest between marketing junk food and promoting public health,” said CCFC’s co-founder Dr. Susan Linn.  “Surely Health and Human Services can find a better spokesperson for healthy living than a character that is a walking advertisement for McDonald’s, sugary cereals, cookies, and candy.”  The Institute of Medicine has recommended that the food industry stop using media characters to promote junk food to young children.

In February, HHS joined with Dreamworks and the Ad Council’s Coalition for Healthy Children to launch a series of Shrek-themed public service announcements (PSAs) as part of HHS’ “Small Step” Childhood Obesity Prevention campaign.  The PSAs were widely cited as evidence that the food and marketing industries were changing their tactics and committed to promoting healthy eating.  But Shrek’s dual role as an anti-obesity icon and junk food pitchman highlights the hypocrisy inherent in relying on food companies to safeguard children’s health.  The food and advertising industries hope to fend off regulation by garnering praise for symbolic gestures, even as they continue to bombard children with junk food promotions.

The Ad Council’s Coalition for Healthy Children includes Kellogg and Pepsico, both of whom have their own Shrek promotions.  Masterfoods, which was widely lauded when it recently announced it would stop marketing to children under twelve, is using Shrek to promote M&M’s, Snickers, and Skittles on television, on the Internet, and on its “ogre-sized” packaging.  Other foods linked to the movie include McDonald’s Happy Meals, Kellogg's Marshmallow Froot Loops cereal, Keebler E.L. FudgeDouble Stuffed cookies, and Kellogg's Frosted S'Mores Pop Tarts.

“Why would young children follow Shrek’s advice about healthy living and ignore his entreaties to eat Happy Meals and Pop Tarts?” said Dr. Linn. “If government agencies are serious about combating childhood obesity, they should stop cozying up to industry and start taking real steps to end the barrage of junk food marketing aimed at children.  The sheer volume of unhealthy food being marketed to children by Shrek is a clear indication that food companies – despite recent proclamations -- are not going to stop marketing energy-dense, low-nutrient foods to children on their own.”

A complete list of Shrek the Third food promotions is available here.