Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Childhood obesity and advertising

In the UK, a ban on ads for junk foods during programs where the majority of viewers are under 16 has been imposed to address childhood obesity. The ban seeks to address the issue, among others, of encouraging excessive consumption of food.

In the US, schools have instituted healthier choices in cafeterias. Some have removed vending machines that contain high sugar sodas and candies or chips and other junk foods, imposing junk food bans with legislation begun in California.  The statistics show that childhood obesity has more than doubled in our country for preschoolers and more than tripled for children aged 6 to 11.

The UK has similar bans in their schools, but limiting ads during children's programs is a step further than we've taken. It's reminiscent of the cigarette commercials that were removed from television.  The ban took place on January 2, 1971. Why? To allow the cigarette companies one last time to advertise on New Year's Day.

What do you think? Is it appropriate to police junk food ads for a young audience? Or not?  To see what's being done in the U.S., visit the FCC site for the Task Force for Media and Childhood Obesity. Back in June, food firms were urged to follow the socially responsible lead of Kellogg's company.


mabel said...

As a parent and grandparent I'm all for this. Too many times I'm in the grocery store and the kids ask me to buy them the latest sugar cereal or candy and they've seen it on TV. I think some of these ads make it harder for parents to teach nutrition to kids.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I agree. There comes a point where we can over regulate stuff and the way people eat is a personal decision.

Anonymous said...

There's been a gradual transformation in which food became an industrial product. Many people only eat things that come in cans, frozen containers, or the deli section of groceries. A piece of fruit or some steamed vegetables seem defective to some kids: they aren't really prepared.

Once we recognize that prepped food is the way the majority of kids consume their foods, then regulations about how to provide this food make more sense. Companies use science to discover tastes and presentations that engender enthusiasm and the desire for more. The chemical content and the addictive nature of the pleasures derived can have negative consequences.

I'm glad they are beginning to protect children. I hope they will soon begin to protect the rest of us.

Barb, sfo said...

The majority of food consumed by children is not purchased by children. Parents need to grow a spine about what they let their children eat, and it would be great if healthy foods were made more affordable than junk foods. But I don't want the government telling me how much butterfat can be in the milk I buy for my children. I've got skinny, active kids, and we drink whole milk in my house.
Now if you want to have them spend some time in health class learning about healthy portion sizes, I'm all for it.

Ruth said...

I really appreciate everyone's comments about this issue. I think it's an important one. It seems to me that teaching kids about nutrition is a key factor here that should be addressed (Barb mentions that) and I also think that way we eat now (as Sr. Edith mentions) is very different - perhaps the point is that we need to pay attention to obesity as a health issue due to the alarming numbers and discuss ways to address it. Because childhood obesity certainly leads to adult obesity, which leads to higher health care costs for everyone, among other things.