Despite Agreement, Still Marketing Unhealthy Food to Kids

Kids eating unhealthy food at restaurantMeasures to reduce the impact of marketing unhealthy food to children continue to fall short of World Health Organization (WHO) goals, according to a paper published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization. Current WHO estimates suggest 2.7 billion adults will be medically classified as obese by 2025. Approximately 42 million children younger than 5 are obese.

Influence of Marketing on Childhood Obesity Risk

In 2010, governments across the globe adopted a resolution to restrict the marketing of sugary, salty, and high-fat food to children.

Rachel Eddins, MEd, LPC, a Houston, Texas, therapist who specializes in eating and food issues, said such measures directly address the obesity epidemic.

“Children, with substantially increased screen time, are more susceptible than ever to marketing and media tactics,” Eddins said. “This is a serious public health issue linked to childhood obesity. The impact on mental health includes body image issues, eating disorders, bullying, depression, low self-esteem, and suicidal thinking.”

According to the report, no WHO member state has fully adopted the resolution’s recommendations.  Mascots that appeal to children, characters on food packaging, celebrity endorsements, and in-school access to unhealthy food continue to influence food choices. The report highlights the role that food and beverage companies could play in reducing marketing to children, but argues they have done little to address the problem.

Childhood Habits: Predictors of Adult Health?

Childhood obesity increases the chances of adulthood obesity, in addition to exposing children to health problems such as diabetes and poor cardiovascular health. The report suggests children are biologically programmed to be attracted to unhealthy food. When brands directly market unhealthy food to children, children’s food preferences may be permanently affected.

“In working with adults struggling with disordered eating, I find that childhood patterns of eating influence present disordered eating habits, taste preferences, choices, and behaviors,” Eddins said. “So not only is this issue concerning for children, but it also sets them up to struggle with health issues for their lifespan.”

References:

  1. Kraak, V. I., Vandevijvere, S., Sacks, G., Brinsden, H., Hawkes, C., Barquera, S., . . . Swinburn, B. A. (2016). Progress achieved in restricting the marketing of high-fat, sugary and salty food and beverage products to children. Bulletin of the World Health Organization,94(7), 540-548. doi:10.2471/blt.15.158667
  2. Policymakers fall short on global agreement to reduce marketing unhealthy foods to kids. (2016, July 5). Retrieved from http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-07/vt-pfs070516.php

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  • Gena

    Gena

    July 11th, 2016 at 2:40 PM

    I was always a fat kid but mainly because we had very little access to fresh fruits and vegetables when I Was young. We were always eating from a drive thru because it was cheap and easy. I think that if we made fresh and healthy options as easy and inexpensive as say a Happy Meal, then we would start seeing some real progress in the right direction.

  • hank

    hank

    July 11th, 2016 at 5:01 PM

    I will not choose sides here, but look, this is not the advertisers fault entirely. They are only trying to do what any company tries to do to stay in business and that is to make money. Sometimes you have to stretch a little to do that. I mostly blame families for letting the kids make those bad choices or not at least having some other options for them to counter with. It is hard to fight back against the machine, I think that we all get that, but can you blame a company for wanting to make a profit? If I am the parent and I don’t want the kids to have it, then the way I see it is that they get their spending power from me, and if I say no, then that’s that. We don’t get it.

  • Janice

    Janice

    July 12th, 2016 at 1:59 PM

    How do expect government to regulate private businesses?

  • stressmom

    stressmom

    July 13th, 2016 at 2:44 PM

    As long as there is money to be made then you better believe that the advertisers are going to be looking out more for their bottom line then they are for our health. I think that looking out for the health of the family is the responsibility of the family itself, so those are choices that I make as the consumer.

  • Zeke D

    Zeke D

    July 15th, 2016 at 10:06 AM

    Of course, the things that we learn as children for the most part will follow us aorund all throughout our adult lives. That is why I still like kids cereals to this day.

    But at the same time when you become an adult there are also other adult choices that you have to learn to make and part of that will be maintaining an active lifestyle for yourself and also modeling that to your kids.

    Not everything that the kids grow up with has to be perceived as bad. Why not give them something positive that they can always fall back on instead?

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