Obesity is a rising concern in the US. Every year more Americans are considered overweight or obese – including children. According to the American Psychology Association, childhood obesity rates have doubled in the last twenty-five years. Why is this happening? Some claim that children are just not getting enough exercise because they are spending less time playing outside, and more time playing video games and watching television. Others say that less physical activity and too much television implicate another component of the childhood obesity epidemic – advertising.
According to a study conducted by the American Psychology Association, children between the ages of eight and twelve are exposed to a staggering 7,609 advertisements per year. While the children’s food industry has emphasized its recent efforts to clean up its act (when I was a child the majority of advertisements I saw were for fast foods or highly processed foods) many argue that the industry is still making candy, sugary cereals, soda and fast food look delicious and “cool” to eat. Is this a deceptive practice that is luring the country’s children into thinking that these foods are potentially good for them?
According to the New York Times, the Federal Trade Commission has recently created a guideline that food companies are “requested” to follow when creating their advertisements to children. The FTC wants these companies to have food that contains a) healthy ingredients; and b) less sugar. Of course, it is important to note that the food industry itself has recognized that change is necessary; In 2006 the food industry formed the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative in response to public criticisms regarding its food marketing practices. The initiative is an effort by the industry to clean up the market place and self-regulate child-directed food advertising.
While it is great to hear that the government and the food industry are focusing on the health of our nation’s children, many critics are still pointing their fingers at parents. These critics say that the diet starts with the parents, noting that the parents control the majority of the food purchased for the home. I was pleased to see that just one Google search demonstrated that parents across the country ARE joining forces to push for things like healthier school lunches. I admit that we still have a challenge ahead of us but perhaps we are finally on our way to a healthier country – what do you think?