Give kids identical foods, some in McDonald’s wrappers, some not, and ask the kids which ones they like best. Big surprise: they like the foods labeled McDonald’s much better, especially if they often eat at McDonald’s or watch a lot of television. And these were little kids–aged 3 to 5. That’s the gist of a new study from the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, a journal not on my usual reading list so I am indebted to the UC Berkeley Center for Family and Community Health for sending it to me. Actually, the effect of branding on kids’ taste preferences is so easy to demonstrate that even kids can prove it. In my book Food Politics, I quote a science fair project done by a couple of 13-year-olds in Portland, OR who did the same experiment with their classmates’ soda preferences. This is why companies are so eager to put their brand in every possible place where kids can see it. It makes kids want to eat brand-named foods (what I call “kids’ foods”) and not want to eat foods without brands. As for adults….?
At last, some good news. Joel Moscowitz of the Center for Family and Community Health at Berkeley’s School of Public Health frequently sends out articles he has collected about obesity prevention. The latest is a “meta-analysis” (meaning an analysis of data collected from many research studies on the same topic) of 12 projects that use a combination of diet and physical activity to help school children lose weight. According to the authors of this article, published in the International Journal of Obesity, diet and activity work remarkably well, especially when families are involved. Doesn’t this seem promising?
Michele Simon has just sent me a press release from the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College. This is about a report the Institute has just written on Tesco, a supermarket chain that holds a 31% share of the grocery business in the U.K. Tesco is about to open supermarkets (“Fresh & Easy”) in Los Angeles and other places in some Western states. According to the lead author of the report, Robert Gottlieb, who is Henry R. Luce Professor of Urban & Environmental Policy at Occidental: “Tesco has been especially adept at marketing itself as a socially responsible corporation…However, our examination of Tesco’s track record shows significant gaps between what it has promised and how it has achieved its current position….” This report makes interesting reading. Is Tesco really socially responsible? Does it raise the same kinds of issues as get raised about Whole Foods? Give the report a try and see what you think.
The Spring 2007 issue of the Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics and the April 2007 issue of the Maryland Law Journal both have collections of excellent articles on childhood obesity. The articles talk about how to use laws and regulations to improve school food and restrict marketing of junk food to children, among other actions. Tired of waiting for food companies to make voluntary improvements? These articles provide lots of good ideas for encouraging companies to do what they promise.
I’m just back from participating in a panel discussion on alternative food chains at Yearly Kos in Chicago–the first time this group of Netroots Nation and blogging activists (many on Daily Kos) has discussed food issues at its convention (see the completely unbiased report on the panel, posted by its chair, Daily Kos diarist orangeclouds115). The convention was well worth attending if for no other reason than to see all of the Democratic party candidates for president (exception: Joe Biden) on stage answering hard-hitting questions from a very tough audience with highly diverse opinions. If you still have the idea that young people are not interested in politics these days, try this. I found it inspiring (not everyone agrees).
I’m confused. Is Simpsons a movie or a lengthy ad for Burger King? And is this about marketing to children or what? You can watch the ads and decide for yourself.
The bottled water industry must be really, really worried. Today’s New York Times has a full-page ad from the International Bottled Water Association promoting the health benefits of bottled water (“So, as far as we’re concerned, the drink in everyone’s purse, backpack, and lunch box should be water”), its use in emergencies, and its environmental friendliness (“The bottles our member companies produce are 100% recylable”). You will be pleased to know that the Association supports “new, more comprehensive recycling laws to reduce the amount of plastic waste in our environment.” The Association says: “We realize that there are many different points of view on these issues. We want to hear your thoughts.” They do? They should read today’s letters to the editor. If you want them to hear your thoughts, you can do so on their site. What do full-page ads in the Times cost? $80,000? That’s a lot of bottled water.