Food marketing to children and teens is a major public health concern. Earlier this year, the Walt Disney Company announced it will no longer accept advertisements for junk food on its child-directed television, radio, and online sites. Disney also updated its nutrition standards for foods that can be advertised to children.
The food and beverage industry spends $2 billion per year advertising food to children. Kids aged 2-11 years old see an average of 13 food ads a day, mainly promoting unhealthy foods. This contributes to our country’s obesity epidemic; one in every three children is overweight or obese. To see some of the best and the worst examples of advertising food to children, check out the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity — Food Marketing Practices.
Food marketing can make the job for parents harder or it can be used to promote healthy eating. In a recent study by Cornell University, children chose apples over cookies when Elmo stickers were placed on the apples. (The Elmo sticker increased the consumption of apples, though, did not have an effect when placed on the cookies.)
Our nutrition education programs like the Arizona Nutrition Network and WIC do a good job of promoting healthy foods but are small compared to industry efforts. The Food Marketing Workgroup (FMW) is made up of partners like the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), the American Heart Association, the National PTA, and other organizations. They are working together to eliminate harmful food marketing, particularly marketing aimed at people most vulnerable to obesity. The FMW is now urging Nickelodeon to stop marketing junk food to kids. To find out how you can be part of this action, visit the FMW website.