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Children's Health

Watchdog Group: Reduce Junk Food Ads For Kids

Advocates Say Junk Food Ads Make Obesity Epidemic Worse
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They also say marketers should offer foods that provide basic nutrients and have:

  • Less than 30% of total calories from fat (excluding fat from nuts, seeds, and peanut or other nut butters)
  • Less than 10% of calories from saturated plus hydrogenated fat
  • Less than 25% of calories from added sugars
  • No more than 150 milligrams of sodium per serving of snack items; no more than 480 milligrams per serving for soups, pastas, meats, and main dishes; and no more than 600 milligrams for meals

More than 15% of children aged 6 to 19 qualify as obese. This percentage has more than doubled over the last two decades. Many more are identified as overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately 19 million American children over age 6 are now obese or overweight, putting them at higher risk for developing diabetes, heart disease, and a variety of other illnesses.

An Institute of Medicine report issued in September called for drastic action against rising childhood obesity. Experts stated then that food industry efforts at self-regulation of child-directed advertising were ineffective and should be rethought.

Overwhelming Parents?

Industry groups responded Thursday that the guidelines unfairly focus on one narrow aspect of an obesity problem that has complex and wide-ranging causes. A statement issued by the Grocery Manufacturers of America said that the guidelines "miss the point."

"Effective solutions must incorporate sound nutrition, increased physical activity, consumer and parent education, and community support. Above all, the focus should be on giving parents the information they need to ensure their children eat a nutritionally balanced diet and get the right amount of physical activity," the statement said.

Daniel J. Jaffe, chief lobbyist for the Association of National Advertisers, Inc. tells WebMD that regardless of advertising, parents still have the final say over what children consume. "If kids say they want something, the parent can say no," he says.

Consumer advocates complain that industry advertising has reached the point where it overwhelms parents' ability to monitor what their children eat. Children are now exposed to an average of 58 advertising television messages per day, about half of which push food products, according to the CSPI. Many more pitches arrive over the Internet and in movie product placements, they say.

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