Are Food Companies and Fast Food Industries to Blame for Child Obesity?



In my last post I touched upon how food companies focus their advertisements on children. Although food companies and fast food industries are not fully to blame for child obesity, the influence their advertisements have on the younger generation is a major problem and contributes greatly to the obesity epidemic.

In 2012 the fast food industry spent $4.6 billion on advertisements.  This resulted in children of all ages seeing multiple advertisements for fast food industries per day:

  • Pre-schoolers saw 2.8
  • Children ages 6-11 saw 3.2
  • Teenagers saw 4.8

Advertisements for six fast food companies made up over 70% of all television ads seen by children and teens.  With advertisements being so prevalent, it’s no wonder kids feel the need to give into the temptations and indulged in fast foods.

The American Psychological Association stated, “Research has found strong associations between increases in advertising for non-nutritious foods and rates of childhood obesity. Most children under age 6 cannot distinguish between programming and advertising and children under age 8 do not understand the persuasive intent of advertising. Advertising directed at children this young is by its very nature exploitative.” Kids are able to recall information they see very easily, so the repetitiveness of commercials drill the food products into their minds. This influences their requests at the grocery store and in turn influences what parents buy for their kids.

Food companies that sell to grocery stores are just as to blame for child obesity as fast food industries are.  When you see a commercial on television, the product the commercial is promoting is usually never healthy. There are an abundance of commercials for Doritos and Pepsi. But where are the commercials for apples, bananas, and other fruits? They’re so few and far between that it seems they simply don’t exist. Maybe if fruits, vegetables, and other healthy options were portrayed the same way as junk foods, kids would want to eat them too!

One way to stop the effect advertisements have is to change the way we watch television. If we switch to using DVR (digital video recorder) than we can fast-forward during commercials and skip out on our kids seeing advertisements for junk food. If a DVR isn’t in the cards for you, make your kids do tasks during commercials. Tasks such as going upstairs/downstairs to get something, running outside to check the mailbox, or tidying up a room can kill two birds with one stone (make them miss the commercials and squeeze in some physical activity). If they don’t see the advertisements, and we don’t tell them about the foods, there is less of a chance they will beg for them when at the store.

Although distracting children during commercials doesn’t seem like much, anything could help.  Parents need to stand up to food companies and fast food industries and show them they won’t allow them to have influence over their children!

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