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Originally published December 1 2014

Fast food marketing targets black children in US

by Jonathan Benson, staff writer

(NaturalNews) Mischievous cows, red-haired clowns, popular sports icons and many other clever enticements are a hallmark of American fast-food advertising. But a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine has found that the bulk of this child-centric junk food marketing is targeted toward black children in poorer areas of town.

Though the vast majority of fast food restaurants, some 90 percent, are located in majority-white, middle class neighborhoods, most of the advertising aimed toward children is featured in the other 10 percent. African-American youngsters, it turns out, endure the bulk of psychological manipulation coming from corporations peddling fast food.

Study finds large percentage of fast food outlets ads in minority communities target children

For their study, researchers from Arizona State University (ASU) and the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) evaluated 6,716 fast food stores nationwide. They looked at both interior and exterior ads and displays aimed at children, which contained things like cartoon characters, kids' meal toys, and television and movie stars. They also looked at which restaurants had play areas for children.

More than one in five of the evaluated fast food outlets had some kind of child-directed marketing material on its premises, according to the study, with 13 percent having at least one indoor display promoting kids' meal toys. Roughly four percent of the sampled fast food stores had indoor play areas, while a lesser percentage had outdoor ones.

Rather than an even mix of these stores in all communities, however, most of the ones looking to get children hooked on junk food were in low-income communities. This seemingly corresponds with the higher rates of obesity typically observed in low-income communities, where fast food consumption is prevalent.

"Majority black communities, rural areas and middle-income communities are disproportionately exposed (to child-directed marketing) and specifically to indoor displays of kids' meal toys, a popular strategy among chain restaurants," explains the study.

"In light of these findings, it is important to urge the fast-food industry to limit children's exposure to marketing that promotes consumption of unhealthy food choices."

Should fast food restaurants be allowed to market to anyone?

While it is ultimately up to a child's parents to regulate his dietary habits, some contend that more regulation is needed to protect children from fast food industry propaganda. Hiding genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), trans fats, and refined sugar behind animated cartoon characters and colorful toys is a moral assault on society's most vulnerable.

"We don't want our kids to view McDonald's as a reward," stated Migdalia Rivera, a blogger and activist, to The Atlantic. Rivera recently joined a campaign pushing McDonald's to scrap its Ronald McDonald character, which has long appealed to children.

"Most kids are not going to go to McDonald's to order a salad," she added, noting that inspiration for her activism came after her 15-year-old son was diagnosed with high cholesterol and hypertension, which she blames on fast food.

Childhood obesity rates on the decline, says JAMA study

Though still a widespread, and in some areas ever-growing, problem, childhood obesity is reportedly on the decline. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) back in February found that among children aged two to five, there has been a 43 percent decline in the obesity rate.

"Once the obesity epidemic emerged in the 1980s, it took us a while to realize that something bad was happening," stated Dr. Ruth Loos, a professor of preventive medicine at the Mount Sinai Hospital's Icahn School of Medicine to The New York Times (NYT), who remains skeptical about the obesity rate in the U.S.

"We've been trying to educate parents and families about healthy lifestyles, and maybe it's finally having an effect."


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