October 6th, 2011

Who’s for kids and who’s just kidding?

By David Britt and Lori Dorfman
The Hill

With all the political posturing, infighting and just plain foolishness in Washington this year, you might have missed an important proposal to help preserve a great national treasure: our children’s health. The proposal tackles a problem affecting all children in this country — the onslaught of food marketing that targets our children with nonstop pitches for sugary, fatty and salty foods and beverages. It’s no coincidence that these are the foods they eat too much of.

The proposal is refreshingly simple: It encourages companies to promote foods and beverages children should eat more of and suggests they don’t market directly to children what they should eat less of.

We all know what food marketing tells our youth: “Eat this and have fun!” “Drink that, just like a baseball star!” “Get a free toy with your burger and fries!” But we might not be aware just how much of it children see — 12 food pitches on TV per day, on average, and many more if they watch a lot of TV or play games on their phones or computers.

Many also might not be aware of how effective food marketing that targets children is. Three decades of research shows that food marketing causes children to prefer, nag for and eat what’s marketed to them. That’s why fast-food chains and food companies spend nearly $2 billion a year on marketing — more than $5 million a day, every day.

The problem is that most of the foods and beverages marketed directly to children are for fatty, sugary, salty products, with few fruits, vegetables or whole grains. Food companies and fast-food chains should be responsible and not market unhealthy products to children. Grown-ups can fend for themselves, but children deserve protection.

That’s why Congress asked scientists, nutritionists and doctors drawn from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Federal Trade Commission to come up with guidelines to show marketers — and parents — what levels of unhealthy fats, sugars and salt are safe to market to children. The amounts they recommend are based on the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, adapted to the developmental needs of children (for example, they should consume less salt than adults).

Read more: http://bit.ly/qef75B

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