Tv And Food: Watching Us Grow

For every 26 food ads a kid under the age of 8 sees, he or she sees only one promoting fitness or a healthy diet. Preteens have it worse -- only one healthy lifestyle ad per 48 that push fatty, sugary snacks and fast food. Of course, the companies making those products aren't solely responsible for the obesity epidemic gripping at least one-third of American kids. A variety of other factors (genetics, economics, etc.) are also in play.

But given how many hours of televisions kids watch, the power of the ads they see can't be underestimated. And the analysis of those ads, provided by a Kaiser Family Foundation study of 2005 TV ads, paints an unsettling picture. The study looked at 8,854 commercials aimed at kids, and none were for fruits or vegetables. One percent pushed fruit juice. While the study looks at ads from two years ago, and it was only in November that 11 of the big boys (Coca-Cola Co. McDonalds, etc.) agreed to voluntary rules that would have them changing their ads (promoting a healthy lifestyle in at least half of their ads), expecting them to self-regulate is a tad optimistic.

The obesity rates we're looking at make us think that perhaps if those companies don't comply with the new rules -- which have yet to take effect -- their ads ought to be regulated like tobacco and alcohol commercials are. Regulations, though, aren't our only way out of this. Maybe TV stations could be given financial incentives to offer, say, organic farmers cheaper rates for ads targeting children. There's got to be a way to make eating snap peas, pears and celery seem appealing to kids. Another thought: Perhaps the government could provide adequate funding to the Centers for Disease Control's anti-obesity efforts. Funding for the CDC's Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity appears to be short, which means the CDC can fund anti-obesity programs in only 28 states.

Taken from SeattlePI.com

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