The “Let’s Move” Campaign to battle childhood obesity targets 4 campaign pillars which are appropriate and laudable strategies. But, Mrs. Obama, these 4 pillars will fail if you do not add an essential 5th pillar to your Campaign: Curbing the power of corporations to market junk food to children
I’m sure you know that marketing junk food to children is big business. A 2008 Federal Trade Commission Report estimated that up to $10 billion was spent annually on advertising food and beverages to children. A 2007 Kaiser Family Foundation study found that food is the top product advertised to children. Half of all ads shown during children’s programming are for food. And 34% of all food ads are for candy. Is it any surprise that marketing junk food to children has risen dramatically since the Federal Trade Commission lost its power to regulate marketing to children, making the U.S. unique among industrialized countries in giving free-reign to marketers?
Marketers would not go to all this trouble and expense if they didn’t know what an impact their marketing has on children’s consuming and eating habits. In 2006, an Institute of Medicine review of research found strong evidence that food advertising on TV influences children’s food preferences and diets.
Mrs. Obama, please don’t ignore what we know to be one of the greatest reasons why childhood obesity has rapidly increased in the past decade—just as the time children spend in front of a screen viewing ads has soared, as has the amount of money spent marketing junk food to them. Right now, the burden of solving childhood obesity is on parents and schools while the single biggest factor that would help them promote children’s health is ignored.
If you really want have an impact on the epidemic of children obesity, it is time to give the Federal Trade Commission back its powers to regulate marketing to children. It is time to put protecting the interests of children and families above the greed of marketers.