Obesity PR

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Food Marketing to Kids

"With rising rates of childhood obesity and diabetes, you might think that when the federal government convenes a meeting on how food companies market food to kids, talk of how to regulate industry practices might actually be on the agenda. But you'd be wrong," wrote Michele Simon. [1] In Mid-July 2005 a U.S. government conference on food marketing to kids was dominated by the companies themselves. "By conservative estimates, a full two-thirds of the panelists—hand-picked by the FTC and HHS—had financial ties to either the food or advertising industries. To add insult to injury, from the chairman of the FTC on down, nearly every government official who had the chance made clear that regulation of junk food ads aimed at children was not on the table and wouldn't be anytime soon. ... Only a handful of panel slots were allotted to public health or children's advocates. Even then, their voices were drowned out by the likes of PepsiCo and Kraft, who were each given two separate opportunities to speak, an honor not bestowed on anyone else."

Battle of the Childhood Bulge

"We can't any more argue whether food advertising is related to children's diets. It is," said Ellen Wartella, a co-author of the Institute of Medicine report reviewing "123 scientific research studies spanning 30 years on the effects of marketing food to children." The report concluded that "strong evidence" links TV ads to childhood obesity, and recommended that well-known cartoon characters not be used to sell "low-nutrient and high-calorie" foods, the Wall Street Journal reports. [2]

Marketing to children is a $11 billion industry. The American Advertising Federation responded that companies are already "promoting healthier products and active lifestyles for children." Commercial Alert called on Congress to "expel junk food from public schools, require disclosure of product placement ... and eliminate the federal tax deduction for food advertising to children." The New York Times reports that Center for Science in the Public Interest, with "veterans of successful tobacco litigation," will file a lawsuit in Massachusetts to "ban sales of sugary beverages in schools." [3]

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