Thursday, May 20, 2010

Kids Are What They Eat (And Watch) Part 1

This is the first of a series of posts about food, marketing and our kids' health. 

Our kids are defenseless targets for marketers of junk food and are getting sick and fat because of our inability to say NO and the 24-7 cheap access to non-foods marketed to kids.  Here are just a few articles I found on the topic. There will be more to come.   I am particularly interested in the links between commercial television and obesity.  It isn't the inactivity, but the marketing that seems to have such a profound effect on our kids (and us). 
  • A study in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine questions the relationship between television marketing of junk foods to kids and kids' increased intake of high-calorie, low-nutrition foods. 
  • A study in the journal Pediatrics looked at the prevalence of food brands in movies and found that most of the brand placements were for high-calorie, low-nutrition foods, many of these films target children and young adults. 
  • Calories for Sale (pdf)chronicles marketing to children in the 21st Century
  • Marion Nestle (one of my food heroes) wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2006:
  • Since 1994, U.S. companies have introduced about 600 new children's food products; half of them have been candies or chewing gums, and another fourth are other types of sweets or salty snacks. Only one fourth are more healthful items, such as baby foods, bread products, and bottled waters. Companies support sales of "kids' foods," with marketing budgets totaling an estimated $10 billion annually.1,3 Kellogg spent $22.2 million just on media advertising to promote 139.8 million dollars' worth of Cheez-It crackers in 2004, but these figures are dwarfed by McDonald's $528.8 million expenditure to support $24.4 billion in sales. Marketing to children is hardly new, but recent methods are far more intense and pervasive. Television still predominates, but the balance is shifting to product placements in toys, games, educational materials, songs, and movies; character licensing and celebrity endorsements; and less visible "stealth" campaigns involving word of mouth, cellular-telephone text messages, and the Internet. All aim to teach children to recognize brands and pester their parents to buy them. The IOM notes that by two years of age, most children can recognize products in supermarkets and ask for them by name.

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