We’ve been hearing more and more blustering from activists recently about the way food is marketed to kids. Notorious food cop Marion Nestle was in Australia last week for an activist "Festival of Ideas," where she complained about Shrek characters being used to sell snacks to kids. Governments have jumped on this bandwagon, too. In April, the Federal Trade Commission & the Department of Health & Human Services released a report on marketing, self-regulation, & childhood obesity. A report from the Task Force on Media and Childhood Obesity, a cooperative effort between the U.S. Senate and the Federal Communications Commission, is due to be released in September. And eleven food industry giants have already signed on to a self-regulation initiative from the Council of Better Business Bureaus. But missing from all of these panels, task forces, and initiatives is any real emphasis on the one group that affects children’s eating habits the most: their parents.
Last time we checked, six-year-olds weren’t pushing shopping carts down the aisles of their local grocery stores by themselves. Maybe some parents today are more susceptible to temper tantrums involving candy bars and fruity cereal. But as we recently noted, the amount of food advertising aimed at kids has not actually increased. Both the American Medical Association and the Federal Trade Commission have released reports confirming that kids today aren’t exposed to more TV food ads than they were 20 years ago.
Always allowing kids to decide what to eat isn’t good for them. But that’s not because they’ve been brainwashed by a lovable green ogre. As we’ve said before, kids want to eat these foods not because of ads, but because they’re kids.
And we’ve seen new evidence that the most restrictive parents aren’t helping their kids when it comes to the food choices they make. Which begs the question: Why are all of these government panels and task forces addressing the one factor that hasn’t changed in decades? Food ads geared toward kids don’t change eating habits. Moms and dads do.