Food Marketers are Failing Our Kids

Soda. Fast food. Candy. Chips. We can easily list the high calorie, low nutrient foods that our kids crave—and that contribute to our nation’s epidemic of childhood obesity. It’s been a bit harder to assess the multibillion-dollar food marketing machine that stokes kids’ cravings. Until now: The Center for Science in The Public Interest has just come out with The Food Policy Marketing Report Card, a helpful tool for understanding the marketing methods of large food companies and entertainment companies that target kids under the age of 12. 

Research has shown that food marketing does influence what children eat, as well as what they pester their parents to buy. And our children are subject to relentless marketing for unhealthful foods: According to CSPI, "companies spend approximately $2 billion a year on marketing foods and beverages to children, mostly for foods high in calories, fats, sugars, and sodium, and low in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and key nutrients." The Federal Trade Commission recommended in 2008 that food companies adopt “nutrition-based standards for marketing their products.” So two years later, CSPI investigated 128 food and entertainment companies to see if they have policies governing their marketing of food to young children—and whether those policies are sufficient to protect our children.       

CSPI awarded the vast majority of companies an F, most for failing to have any policy at all, and a few for having very weak policies. Some of the failing companies include Bob Evans Farms, Inc.; CBS Corporation; American Dairy Queen Corporation; Discovery Communications, LLP; Mattel, Inc.; NBC Universal, Inc. The highest grade was a B+, awarded to Mars Inc.  Kudos to Mars for its policy of not allowing marketing of its products to children under the age of 12, and for covering several different media venues.

CSPI also found that nutrition standards differed from company to company. Clearly, we need a stronger and more consistent effort from food and media companies to protect our children.

The obesity epidemic is deeply ingrained in our society. If we wish to work toward a healthier future for our children we must analyze all of the threats to progress, and then take action. What can we do to change the way foods and beverages are marketed to children in this country? How can we shield our children from these pervasive and persuasive marketing messages? Does government need to get involved? What are other societal contributors to obesity, and what actions can we take to address them?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts,

Lilian

Comments

Children are also caught in a marketers dream - a contain environment to which they can sell vending machines full of more in appropriate food.

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