Food Companies Used Influencers to Sell Junk Food to Children
Tec-Check and Consumer Power, both consumer protection organizations, published a report documenting how influencers advertise the consumption of junk food to children.
The study, entitled Influencer Junk Food, highlighted ad campaigns by eight large companies, including Coca-Cola and Nestlé, that have hired influencers to sponsor their products on social media. Through this medium, the companies pushed manipulative ads, which are usually directed toward young people. “Many of these publicity campaigns are disguised as recommendations or everyday experiences through misleading advertising. This is not apparent for millions of followers, particularly children and adolescents," the report reads.
Since 2022, Tec-Check has promoted a federal consumer protection law reform initiative, dubbed influencer law, to regulate content creators, marketing agencies and brands in how they promote products and services on digital platforms. In early February 2023, consumer and child protection advocates, under the slogan "Influencer Law Now," called for tighter Mexican laws governing advertising on social media, particularly those that target children, an especially susceptible group.
Fiorentina García, Co-founder, Tec-Check, and Alejandro Calvillo, Sociologist and Director, Consumer Power, pointed out that brands, advertising agencies and influencers "do what they want on social media at the expense of consumer rights.”
Clara Luz Álvarez, Telecommunications Expert, the Panamerican University, noted that Mexico’s current legislation states that advertising cannot be misleading, regardless of how the message is transmitted. "When influencers speak of a product as if it was their opinion or a genuine recommendation, but they are being paid for it, we are being deceived," she emphasized.
According to UNICEF, one in three Mexican children between ages 6 and 19 are overweight or obese. Fiorella Espinosa, Nutrition Officer, UNICEF, warned that recent studies indicate that 90 percent of the foods advertised on social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram in Mexico are unhealthy, and their main target is children. Espinosa called for stronger regulations and a possible ban on advertising products that already carry mandatory labels warning of excessive sugar, calories or saturated fats.