$1.6 billion in food ads target children
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission wants the entertainment industry to take steps to have TV and movie characters tie in with more nutritional food choices. Kids are the target of more than $1.6 billion spent on food/drink ads. Lawmakers are concerned about the growing rate of obesity in children.
"This study confirms what I have been saying for years. Industry needs to step up to the plate and use their innovation and creativity to market healthy foods to our kids," Harkin said. "That $1.6 billion could be used to attract our kids to healthy snacks, tasty cereals, fruits and vegetables."
$492 M spent to advertise pop
The commission studied spending directed at children ages 2-17. Spending on soda marketing came to $492 million US, with the vast majority of that directed toward adolescents. Restaurants reported spending close to $294 million US, which was divided about evenly between children and adolescents. For cereals, companies spent about $237 million US with the vast majority of that amount aimed at children under age 12.
The 44 companies reviewed spread their marketing across all segments of the media, the commission found. Themes of television ads usually carried over to packaging and displays in stores, and to the internet where entry of a code on a package allowed children to participate in games or contests offering prizes.
For example, Superman Returns and Pirates of the Caribbean were prominently linked to many food products last year. Companies created limited-edition snacks, cereals, waffles and candy based on the movies. They offered prizes on the internet to buyers of those products that ranged from video games to trips to Disney World to a $1 million reward for the capture of Superman villain Lex Luthor.
The FTC made several recommendations as part of its report:
- Media and entertainment companies should limit the licensing of characters to healthier foods and drinks.
- Schools should adopt meaningful nutrition standards for the foods that are sold there, and companies should cease all in-school promotion of products that don't meet such standards.
- Companies that market food and drinks to children should expand public-outreach efforts to educate children about the importance of healthy eating and exercise, with particular attention aimed at minority populations that are disproportionately affected by childhood obesity.
Personally, I think food choices kids make come from parenting. Kids aren’t buying the groceries that are in their kitchen cupboards.
"A lot of parents don't want to struggle with the issues so they give up, letting kids make their own choices," says Jane Rees, director of nutrition service/education in adolescent medicine and lecturer in pediatrics at the University of Washington schools of Medicine and Public Health. "But children's judgment is less mature and they still depend on parents to guide them."