PDF Version

NEWS RELEASE
For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin (202)588-7746
For Immediate Release: September 22nd, 2000

Stop Peddling Junk Food to Children, Commercial Alert Tells Publishers

Following a report in today’s New York Times that some book publishers are promoting toddler-targeted books that advertise junk food, Commercial Alert asked American Association of Publishers President Pat Schroeder to “remind the publishing industry that it exists for the nurture of children and not the commercial exploitation of them.” The letter follows.

Dear Ms. Schroeder:

During your career in the U.S. House of Representatives, you built a reputation as an advocate for children, and you deserved it. As Chair of the Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families, you worked hard for the Family and Medical Leave Act, among many other important causes.

That work included your efforts to protect children from the machinations of advertisers and marketers. For example, in 1992, you and three House colleagues asked RJR Nabisco to stop their lethal Joe Camel campaign.

You work showed an awareness of the importance of nutrition to child health. For example, in 1991, you proposed an amendment to authorize a federal government-funded study on the “general health and well-being of adolescents.” In your floor speech in support of the Schroeder Amendment, you said you wanted an investigation of “the health-promoting and health-threatening behaviors in which adolescents engage”—including, specifically, “nutrition.”

The wheel has come around in a way that probably causes you great personal chagrin. As you know, publishers have begun to use children’s books as advertisements for junk food. These books feature junk foods as characters and often involve activities that require the parent to purchase the product. “[S]nack-brand children’s books have exploded in the last two years into a genre all their own,” The New York Times reports, “as Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and Scholastic have all jumped into the field. Millions of copies have been sold, with a full shelf of new titles on the way.”

The Times article notes that food companies see the books as a splendid vehicle for marketing junk food to toddlers. “‘It is a great way to get the Froot Loops brand equity into a different place, where normally you don’t get exposure—taking it from the cereal aisle and into another area like learning,’ said Meghan Parkhurst, a spokeswoman for Kellogg...”

Publishers such as Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and Scholastic are promoting junk food to vulnerable and unsuspecting children at a time of skyrocketing childhood obesity. About one in every five children now falls into that category. Childhood diabetes is rising too. Dr. Robin S. Goland, co-director of the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center told the Times in 1998 that “With the numbers we’re starting to see, this could be the beginning of an epidemic.”

These book publishers are plainly exploiting children for commercial gain. Miriam Bar-on, the chairwoman of the public education committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics told the Times, “I think the whole thing is revolting, to be targeting these little kids with that kind of marketing.”

No less important, these publishers are degrading the concept of publishing itself. If publishers are now hucksters, and books are just ads, then we aren’t just sliding down the slope. We’ve already hit bottom.

Which means, of course, that this is a good time for your industry to pick itself up. Toddlers and children need your help once again. Please do everything in your power to urge the publishers towards the high road.

Someone has to remind the publishing industry that it exists for the nurture of children and not the commercial exploitation of them. Publishers should be providers of mental and emotional nourishment, not junk food.

Sincerely,

Gary Ruskin, Director

<------letter ends here------>

Commercial Alert opposes the excesses of commercialism, advertising and marketing. Commercial Alert’s web address is http://www.commercialalert.org.

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PDF Version

NEWS RELEASE
For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin (202)588-7746
For Immediate Release: September 22nd, 2000

Stop Peddling Junk Food to Children, Commercial Alert Tells Publishers

Following a report in today’s New York Times that some book publishers are promoting toddler-targeted books that advertise junk food, Commercial Alert asked American Association of Publishers President Pat Schroeder to “remind the publishing industry that it exists for the nurture of children and not the commercial exploitation of them.” The letter follows.

Dear Ms. Schroeder:

During your career in the U.S. House of Representatives, you built a reputation as an advocate for children, and you deserved it. As Chair of the Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families, you worked hard for the Family and Medical Leave Act, among many other important causes.

That work included your efforts to protect children from the machinations of advertisers and marketers. For example, in 1992, you and three House colleagues asked RJR Nabisco to stop their lethal Joe Camel campaign.

You work showed an awareness of the importance of nutrition to child health. For example, in 1991, you proposed an amendment to authorize a federal government-funded study on the “general health and well-being of adolescents.” In your floor speech in support of the Schroeder Amendment, you said you wanted an investigation of “the health-promoting and health-threatening behaviors in which adolescents engage”—including, specifically, “nutrition.”

The wheel has come around in a way that probably causes you great personal chagrin. As you know, publishers have begun to use children’s books as advertisements for junk food. These books feature junk foods as characters and often involve activities that require the parent to purchase the product. “[S]nack-brand children’s books have exploded in the last two years into a genre all their own,” The New York Times reports, “as Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and Scholastic have all jumped into the field. Millions of copies have been sold, with a full shelf of new titles on the way.”

The Times article notes that food companies see the books as a splendid vehicle for marketing junk food to toddlers. “‘It is a great way to get the Froot Loops brand equity into a different place, where normally you don’t get exposure—taking it from the cereal aisle and into another area like learning,’ said Meghan Parkhurst, a spokeswoman for Kellogg...”

Publishers such as Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and Scholastic are promoting junk food to vulnerable and unsuspecting children at a time of skyrocketing childhood obesity. About one in every five children now falls into that category. Childhood diabetes is rising too. Dr. Robin S. Goland, co-director of the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center told the Times in 1998 that “With the numbers we’re starting to see, this could be the beginning of an epidemic.”

These book publishers are plainly exploiting children for commercial gain. Miriam Bar-on, the chairwoman of the public education committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics told the Times, “I think the whole thing is revolting, to be targeting these little kids with that kind of marketing.”

No less important, these publishers are degrading the concept of publishing itself. If publishers are now hucksters, and books are just ads, then we aren’t just sliding down the slope. We’ve already hit bottom.

Which means, of course, that this is a good time for your industry to pick itself up. Toddlers and children need your help once again. Please do everything in your power to urge the publishers towards the high road.

Someone has to remind the publishing industry that it exists for the nurture of children and not the commercial exploitation of them. Publishers should be providers of mental and emotional nourishment, not junk food.

Sincerely,

Gary Ruskin, Director

<------letter ends here------>

Commercial Alert opposes the excesses of commercialism, advertising and marketing. Commercial Alert’s web address is http://www.commercialalert.org.

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