Marketing Junk Food to Kids Could Soon be Illegal


Photo via SMH

It's a topic that sparks heated debate, and one that we've tackled here before: Should corporations be allowed to market unhealthy food to children? When a county in California banned McDonald's Happy Meals, it caused a veritable uproar. Happy Meals are one of the most cannily marketed kids' products, and one of the clearest culprits of children developing bad eating habits early on -- yet many feel that it's the parents' role to decide what to let their kids eat, regardless. So I'm curious to see how the nation will take the news that marketing junk food to kids may soon be downright illegal. Here's the Huffington Post reporting:

On Wednesday, BNET pointed to an interagency document from the FTC, FDA, CDC, and USDA proposing new nutritional standards for food marketed to children ages 2-17. Sugary fruit juices and fatty foods would be off limits, and could not be aimed at children. According to the new guidelines, foods marketed to kids must actually include food [!].

While the USDA did help to write the guidelines, they're the only agency who hasn't signed off on the proposal

This has lead to suspicions that food industry lobbyists grew savvy to the plans, and began fighting the would-be rule. But if these new standards do get signed off on, it means we could see the end of cartoon characters enticing children to eat sugary cereals like Frosted Flakes or Lucky Charms, or fatty fast foods like McDonald's.

This is a welcome development in my opinion -- there's a reason that we don't see Joe Camel around anymore. Children are psychologically susceptible to targeted marketing, and allowing companies to exploit that with a one-two punch of heavy advertising and addictive, unhealthy foods isn't fair. And yes, there is a parental responsibility to keep children from consuming unhealthy foods, but stacking the deck against the parents by making them face off against fun cartoon characters and sugary or fatty foods makes it unnecessarily difficult for them to do so. The kids' familiarity with the advertising also develops as the kids do cognitively, leaving them with a lasting inclination towards eating unhealthy foods.

And so far, those parents as a whole haven't been doing a hell of a job keeping their kids away from junk foods -- America is fatter than ever; people living in the leanest US states now are as fat as those in our fattest states 20 years ago. Something needs to be done to halt the obesity epidemic, and this is a step in the right direction. So would ending corn subsidies and slowing high fructose corn syrup prevalence, but one battle at a time . . .

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