Nov 9 2010

Two reports on marketing food to kids: international and U.S.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has a new, tough report out: “Set of recommendations on the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children.

It’s policy aim: to reduce the impact on children of marketing of foods high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars, or salt.

Here are some of its recommendations (edited):

  • Given that the effectiveness of marketing is a function of exposure and power, the overall policy objective should be to reduce both the exposure of children to, and power of, marketing of foods high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars, or salt.
  • To achieve the policy aim and objective, Member States should consider different approaches, i.e. stepwise or comprehensive, to  reduce marketing of foods high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars, or salt, to children.
  • Settings where children gather should be free from all forms of marketing of foods high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars, or salt.
  • Governments should be the key stakeholders in the development of policy and provide leadership, through a multistakeholder platform, for implementation, monitoring and evaluation. In setting the national policy framework, governments may choose to allocate defined roles to other stakeholders, while protecting the public interest and avoiding conflict of interest.
  • Considering resources, benefits and burdens of all stakeholders involved, Member States should consider the most effective approach to reduce marketing to children of foods high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars, or salt.
  • Member States should cooperate to put in place the means necessary to reduce the impact of crossborder marketing (in-flowing and out-flowing) of foods high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars, or salt to children.

The Rudd Center at Yale has just released Fast Food F.A.C.T.S., a thoroughly comprehensive report on the marketing of fast food to children and adolescents.

The report lavishly illustrates and extensively documents the ways in which fast food companies market to kids, the strategies they use, and the effects of these efforts on kids’ diets.

Readers: add it to your library!  FDA and FTC: get busy!

Addition: Advertising Age reports on the fast food industry’s response to the Rudd Center report.  All the industry can come up with, says Advertising Age, is a “canned response.”  Looks like the Rudd Center got it right.

  • Pete

    The thing about the ad industry is that they can’t lose. If there is outcry for the cessation of marketing unhealthy foods to kids, then they will simply shift focus to market more healthy foods. (I am of the belief that NOTHING should be marketed to kids at all, but that’s beside the point.) The corporations themselves may need to make fundamental changes to their menus to maintain profitability while boosting nutritional value, but the marketers just see another challenge.

    It’s a start. But the thing that still bothers me is who is making the distinction between what is healthy and what is not. I certainly put low-fat caramel sauce (aka sugar) in the unhealthy category, but who exactly makes that determination? The USDA? The FDA? We all know from Food Politics how corrupt these organizations are. Why should we trust their recommendations, and worse implement policy based on it?

    Regardless, marketing to kids is completely unethical and leads to an increasingly consumerist society. The very core of marketing to kids is to turn them into insatiable consumers for life. “You need this to be happy”, and it’s never enough. So you’ll never be happy.

  • Anthro

    From the Report:

    Results
    Fast food marketing is relentless.
    ■ The fast food industry spent more than $4.2 billion in 2009
    on TV advertising, radio, magazines, outdoor advertising,
    and other media.
    ■ The average preschooler (2-5 years) saw 2.8 TV ads for fast
    food every day in 2009; children (6-11 years) saw 3.5; and
    teens (12-17 years) saw 4.7.
    ■ Young people’s exposure to fast food TV ads has increased.
    Compared to 2003, preschoolers viewed 21% more fast
    food ads in 2009, children viewed 34% more, and teens
    viewed 39% more.
    ■ McDonald’s and Burger King have pledged to improve
    food marketing to children. However, both restaurants
    increased their volume of TV advertising from 2007 to 2009.
    Preschoolers saw 21% more ads for McDonald’s and 9%
    more for Burger King, and children viewed 26% more ads
    for McDonald’s and 10% more for Burger King.
    ■ Although McDonald’s and Burger King only showed their
    “better-for-you” foods in child-targeted marketing, their ads
    did not encourage consumption of these healthier choices.
    Instead, child-targeted ads focused on toy giveaways and
    building brand loyalty.
    ——–

    Yes, I think they got it right. Let me repeat, though, WHY they do it:

    Because shareholders (could that be YOU?) demand ever-increasing dividends. I know “nice people” who brag about the returns they get on these stocks; they and their children do not eat this stuff–not all the time anyway–so they don’t feel it is their problem. They forget that public health affects us all in higher health care costs and lost productivity (never mind the misery of obese children!).

    It’s difficult enough to feed anyone properly at home–parents do not need the fast food industry/advertising machine making it worse–especially parents who work multiple jobs and have little time to supervise their children’s eating habits.

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  • http://thedelightblog.wordpress.com/ Cassandra Potier Watkins

    I have really appreciated how here in France they made it illegal to have commercial breaks during kids shows. All commercials have to be shown between different TV shows. This allows the discerning parent the opportunity to turn on their child’s favorite episode when it starts and turn it off at the end, the kid never sees one advertisement!

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