If you’ve been through the grocery store gauntlet with kids, you understand how powerfully foods — usually pretty unhealthy ones –are marketed to children. The yogurt composed mostly of artificial color and HFCS is right there on the bottom of the dairy case, while the healthier, all natural stuff is up at grownup eye level. The Disney princesses are on “fruit snacks” which bear only the vaguest resemblance to actual fruit, and unprocessed, healthier foods sit there in their comparatively boring packaging.
Of course, the responsibility lies on us, as parents, to say “No” to our children’s entreaties and make healthier food choices. My personal shield against all the “fun food” is to say “Yes, that looks fun, but it isn’t very good for you and we don’t buy food like that.”
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, aka the “Food Police” in some circles, has issued a report card grading the policies of 128 different food and entertainment companies on marketing to kids. Not surprisingly, most of the companies got failing grades. Interestingly, though, the vast majority of those failed not because of having a bad policy or even doing bad things, but because they had no policy at all.
Mars, Inc. fared the best, because its policy precludes marketing to kids under 12. Interestingly, some trusted sources of media like PBS ranked only a C+, while the makers of Pringles (wonderful,terrible Pringles) did better.
What I think is especially insidious about this is that even parents who should know better seem to think that because nutritionally-poor food is marketed to kids, it’s what they should be eating. In other words, kids need sugared cereal or artificially-flavored snacks not because everything is OK in moderation, but because if the TV says it’s good for kids it must be. Personally, I’d love to see children’s cartoon characters on milk and apples, say, instead of junk food.