Opinion: BMJ takes on the BEANO, in study of web site content – who will win?

The British Medical Journal, better known as the BMJ, has apparently been “investigating” the BEANO web site, BEANO.com, visited by millions of kids, and accuses it of promoting fast food. I just wish it would promote the brilliant weekly comic a little more obviously!

Beano.com Snapshot - 3rd February 2023

In their article, “Big Macs and the Beano: Is it time for the comic to drop the junk food brands?”, Claire Mulrenan, Mark Petticrew, and Harry Wallop investigate what the BMJ claims is the Beano’s passion for quizzes about burgers, pizzas, fried chicken, and other foods that tend to be high in fat, salt, and sugar, among more understandable fare featuring cultural icons such as Harry Potter, Wednesday from the Addams Family, and Kylian Mbappe.

It is an accusation BEANO Studios, the company behind Britain’s favourite weekly humour comic, who also run Beano Brain, a specialist Insights Consultancy, firmly rejects, responding that “any suggestion that Beano is somehow contributing to increased consumption of HFSS products in children is false, misleading and damaging.”

Whew. Might lawyers get involved here?

In a related editorial, BMJ editor in chief Kamran Abbasi notes the BEANO comic’s longtime success, and the astonishing visitor numbers to BEANO.com, but notes, “The data from the surveys on beano.com feed its Beano Brain product, which creates an ‘immersive deep dive into the UK children’s market – behaviours, attitudes, and trends.’ But the Beano says industry does not fund its junk food quizzes. If it’s not about the money, it is not clear why the comic is publishing content that hardly helps to safeguard children’s health.”

Beano Brain Site Snap - February 2023

Kamran appears, at least in part, to have conflated the physical comic with the arguments the BMJ has made about its official web site, despite an acknowledgment in the investigation itself, noting how the title has adapted to changing times and concerns, as it always has, for example using the name Freddy in “The Bash Street Kids”, rather than his longtime nickname. (Even the Bash Street Kids image used associated with investigation seems to have been taken from an old strip).

Needless to say, the BMJ has brought howls of despair from those fearful of any attempts to increase the powers of the so-called “nanny state”.

Over at The Spectator, Christopher Snowdon, Head of Lifestyle Economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, who had never even heard of BEANO.com, let alone visited it before reading the BMJ’s article, and has derided the research, noting “Britain may be a puritanical nanny state, but there are not yet any plans to make it a crime to write about cakes and chocolate or to mention Pizza Hut by name.

“The ban on so-called ‘junk food’ advertising is due to be introduced in 2025 and the BMJ article gives us an idea of what to expect from the so-called ‘public health’ lobby after it comes into effect,” he suggests. “They will be no dialling down of the hysteria and censoriousness. On the contrary, the wailing will get louder. The demands will get more extreme. People who get angry about images of cupcakes on a comic book’s website cannot be reasoned with. They are never going to stop.”

Don’t get me wrong. I know the issues of fast food and childhood obesity are, without doubt, of major concern. But my longtime beef* with BEANO.com is entirely unrelated to these claims and counterclaims.

For me, the biggest issue I have with BEANO.com isn’t some claim that it’s promoting HFSSS foods. It’s that it makes trying to find information on the latest issue of the BEANO so blooming hard, and this hasn’t changed since its inception. Even the section highlighted as “Comic” doesn’t include a picture of the latest issue!

Now that is a “crime”!

Web Links


The official web site of the BEANO


Beano Brain is an Insights Consultancy from Beano Studios. They help companies build their own connections with families using their unparalleled knowledge of Gen Alpha, Gen Z and their Millennial parents.

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

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

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

BMJ Editorial: The Beano, junk food, and public health

By Kamran Abbasi, editor in chief | Follow Kamran on Twitter @KamranAbbasi

The Spectator: Why is the British Medical Journal investigating the Beano?

By Christopher Snowdon, Head of Lifestyle Economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs

* Oh, all right, I’ll get my coat and let Andy Fanton and Nigel Auchterlounie do the jokes in future

Thanks to Ian Wheeler for the heads up

Categories: British Comics, Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, Features

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1 reply

  1. Spectator and BMJ two groups of elites fighting about what the plebs are allowed to do…. sounds like the making of a good comic strip..

    I’m fairly sure there are other ways either group could help others more if they really cared about education, health, free speech etc rather than arguing in articles only their own elites read.

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