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Marketing Junk Food to Kids

By Larraine Roulston:

In order to sell sugary breakfast cereals, candy and other consumable products that we consider junk food, marketers have realized that creative imagery aimed at children works extremely well. With advertisements, as well as displays positioned at children’s eye level, it becomes difficult for parents to steer youngsters away from sweets and processed foods.

Cara Rosenbloom makes the argument in Today’s Parent magazine, stating, “There’s a known correlation between current food marketing and the rising rates of childhood obesity and chronic diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. Currently, 90 percent of the foods marketed on TV are high in salt, sugar, calories and fat and that’s what our children are being encouraged to eat.”

From another source, Mary L’Abbé, a University of Toronto researcher and professor, noted that her lab has examined over 15,000 foods which encompass approximately 3/4 of the food process market in Canada. L’Abbe stated, “We found that with the proposed Daily Value (DV) threshold, only 16 percent of all products could be marketed to kids, and just 2 percent of products which currently have child-directed packaging meet the threshold.”

Presently, Canada’s Senate is reviewing Bill S-228 that restricts marketing foods that contain over 5% of the recommended DV for salt, saturated fats or sugar. This bill was first introduced in 2016 by former senator and Olympic champion skier Nancy Greene Raine as part of her Child Health Protection Act designed to restrict advertising of unhealthy foods to children under the age of 13. Unfortunately, the bill is at risk of not passing due to the food industry’s intense lobbying.

Nutritionists and responsible parents understand the importance of a healthy diet, and should strive to see that it be passed to prevent food/beverage industries from influencing children through all forms of media that also include packaging and online targeting. With growing concern about childhood afflictions that are now all too common, parents need to stand up to the lobbying food giants who are attempting to stop this bill and to realize that all food advertising should be aligned with nutritional goals.

If common sense prevails, Bill S-228 should pass. Banning the marketing of unhealthy foods would decrease our health care system expenses; help eliminate unorthodox student behavior, which would allow teachers to be more productive regarding classroom assignments; reduce packaging, which in turn would decrease litter and garbage, as well as lessen the burden on the recycling industries; and establish good lifetime eating habits that result in citizens becoming physically more active.

L’Abbé would like to have the system assume more of the responsibility in order to minimize the struggle facing parents. If governments continue with business as usual, individuals may feel powerless; but with a collective voice and their power of purchase, they can maintain the issue front and center. The issue, however, has the added pressure by the family to eat what is both convenient and popular; therefore, it requires the action of parents to collaborate with teachers to search for a solution that works within their school community.

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Larraine writes children’s illustrated adventure stories on composting and pollinating. To view, visit: www.castlecompost.com

About Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

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