Food Marketing to Kids: The Billion Dollar Question

There’s a slight discrepancy in estimates of how much food and beverage marketers spend targeting kids. A mere $8.4 billion.

ronald mcdonaldAn FTC report says food and beverage companies spent $1.6 billion marketing to children under 17 in 2006. But $10 billion is the estimate cited in a government study from the National Academies of Science Institute of Medicine.

It seems that the lower number has more validity. According to a consumer group, the higher number includes some money that was intended for marketing to parents.

“The obesity problem is a complex problem. It’s not only about advertising,” Lydia Parnes, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

True, but billions of dollars can be a pretty powerful persuader.

Most people don’t want to consider the idea of a nanny state. But one can make the argument that junk food is as dangerous as elicit drugs in the long run. And most activists don’t want to treat junk food exactly like drugs. That is, it should always be perfectly legal to eat, just that we need to understand the consequences of massive junk food marketing.

Congressmen Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is a strong critic of junk food marketing to kids:

“Food companies are spending millions of dollars to target children so they can become lifelong consumers of their unhealthy products… While many food and beverage companies have pledged to market healthier options to kids through self-regulatory programs, I want to see real results and changes in the types of products marketed towards children. If these programs do not produce significant changes — government will have to act,” he said.

2 Responses to Food Marketing to Kids: The Billion Dollar Question

vivki says:

Marketing this type of garbage food should not be allowed to children under 13! This is why we have such a problem with obesity in our youth.

Jason says:

It’s definitely a tricky situation. In an idealistic sense, you want something done. I think that it’s indisputable that billion dollar marketing of junk food to kids results in a heavier population, which in turn creates a massive health care burden. But in reality, do we want government taking a heavy handed approach against everything that is potentially bad for our health? Maybe there’s some middle ground.

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