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Big Business Fights Against the Health of Children

Friday, August 20, 2010 by: Cindy Jones-Shoeman
Tags: children, health, health news

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(NewsTarget) The Children's Food and Advertising Beverage Initiative, initiated by the Better Business Bureau in 2007 and meant to curb what is advertised to easily-influenced children on television, has been delayed in Congress. The delay is being caused by an overdue report that is meant to define standards for what can be advertised to children in terms of a food's nutritional value, including calorie, fat, and sugar content.

The inherent problem of the initiative is that corporations, for now, voluntarily set their own standards for what is and is not acceptable to advertise to children. Many of the companies who voluntarily participate have agreed that half their advertising will be devoted to healthier foods, but the companies decide the acceptable limits for calorie, fat, and sugar content. That means that candy, sugary cereals and sodas, and fatty frozen dinners and fast-food meals can qualify as "healthy."

This initiative is aimed at fighting childhood obesity, and while the initiative appears to be a good start, it's not enough. Congress ordered several agencies last year to propose set standards; in December, the agencies' preliminary report was released and big business booed it. Now that the final report has been delayed, experts believe industry is the cause.

Parents and experts have long cautioned that advertising directed at children influences children's future buying and eating habits. The short-term effects of the initiative appear to be that children today are seeing fewer ads for sweets and sugary beverages than they were a few years ago; however, fast-food advertising seems to have picked up that slack, according to a report conducted by the Institute of Medicine, soon to be published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. Many people would argue that this shift is not necessarily a positive change.

Furthermore, while future buying habits are affected by advertising, day-to-day habits are as well. Advertising does affect children profoundly: children under 12 who view ads aimed specifically at them are far more likely to request and eat foods that are targeted at them, that is, food that is high in fat and sugar with little nutritional value.

It's time for Congress to stop taking its cues from big business. Instead, the federal government needs to worry about the health and well-being of future voters rather than the pocketbooks of the companies trying to poison them.



About the author

Cindy Jones-Shoeman is the author of Last Sunset and a Feature Writer for Academic Writing at Suite101.
Some of Cindy's interests include environmental issues, vegetarian and sustainable lifestyles, music, and reading.

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