Childhood Obesity: Who's at Fault? - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

8/19/06

Childhood Obesity: Who's at Fault?

In the last 20-years, childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States.

One out of five children is overweight. One out of three is at risk of developing type-two diabetes.

Who's to blame?

Some say that it's the $11 billion the food industry spends on advertising aimed directly at children has helped fuel the epidemic. Studies suggest a typical child sees as many as 40,000 commercials a year, well over half of them for fast food, candy, soft drinks, and sweetened breakfast cereals.

But TV is just the beginning.

Food is turned into toys, or attached to toys, or just squirts out like a toy.

And then there's the Internet.

A growing number of popular on-line gaming sites are owned or sponsored by the food industry. Food marketing is even on books.

"What the industry does that is so distressing is that they really prey on parents' best intentions," Susan Linn, child psychologist, Harvard University said. 

The food industry also licenses cartoon spokes characters like: Shrek, Scooby and Batman.

The enormous swaying power of spokes characters was discovered when pre-schoolers were asked what they would rather have for breakfast: a banana or a rock.

An overwhelming majority went straight for the rock.  

"It's not a level playing field. I mean, how can one family take on a ten to $12 billion industry. It's hard to keep saying "no" over and over and over," Linn said.

Many food companies are voluntarily changing their products and marketing. Last year Kraft pulled all TV and print ads geared towards kids, unless the products meet the company's "sensible solutions" standards.

"Obesity and trying to address it, we believe, is a shared responsibility. We want to be part of the solution," Lance Friedman, vice president, Kraft Foods said.

Source: MSNBC

 

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