Why We Need to Keep Fighting to Curtail Junk Food Ads for Kids


Dairy Queen recently announced that it is taking sugary drinks off its kids menus and Mars Inc. recently threw their support behind USDA recommendations that limit sugar consumption. So, we’re seeing a big corporate turnaround on junk food advertising to kids, right? Oh, we wish that were the case, but the reality is, there are a million advertising machines out there that are designed to entice our children into wanting unhealthy food.

For example, in a recent article on SuperKids Nutrition, Melissa Halas-Liang writes about a new type of candy that plays off of a favorite children's art supply: Crayolas!

Take the newest partnership between Crayola and the candy manufacturer Bee International. They have created a “Color Your Mouth” line of candy that is loaded with artificial food dyes that stain children’s mouths different colors! The Crayola brand draws children in, and the parallels between coloring on paper and consuming the candy to “color” your mouth sounds like a fun game to kids."

That’s pretty sad. Imagine the rise in crayon eating that will ensue. Bettina Elias Siegel, founder of the great blog The Lunch Tray, provides some great commentary this week on the highly publicized, but extremely watered-down, efforts that Big Food companies are putting into tamping down advertising to children. Siegel tells us about the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI), a coalition of processed-food companies who are committed to this cause. It’s a great PR campaign, but as Siegel shows, it is little more than that.  A recent study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that CFBAI has really done nothing to curtail advertising to children, despite the money, time and deliverables that it has produced. A lot of bark, not a lot of bite. Why? Siegel breaks it down:

The bottom line is that the processed food industry is in the business of creating highly processed foods.  That’s its entire raison d’être. And highly processed foods are the very foods children (as well as the rest of us) should avoid eating, at least most of the time, to maintain optimal health and to reduce the risk of obesity.

So asking this industry to set its own nutritional standards for a children’s advertising ban is a doomed effort.  Yes, industry has made strides by curbing the advertising of candy, soda and other worst-of-the-worst foods, but expecting it to go much further — without governmental regulation — is a pipe dream."

We agree with Siegel. Counting on an industry to regulate itself is an inherent conflict of interest, where outcomes get fungible and best intentions are bulldozed by the bottom line. While this model can work for some industries, when it comes to the health of our children, it just doesn’t work. Let’s keep up the fight to protect our nation’s children from tricky Big Food advertising. Contact the CFBAI here. They “welcome your comments, questions and concerns.”


Read all articles by Damon Cory-Watson

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