Washington, DC – Senator Tom Harkin’s (D-IA) efforts to ban food advertising to children is the latest example of how policymakers are taking misguided approaches to address obesity. Despite the presumptions of Senator Harkin, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), there is no science-based evidence of a correlation between TV ads and overweight and obesity in children.
One recent article in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine found: “Despite media claims to the contrary, there is no good evidence that advertising has a substantial influence on children’s food consumption and, consequently, no reason to believe that a complete ban on advertising would have any useful impact on childhood obesity rates.” Even Kelly Brownell, Food Fight author and CSPI scientific advisory board member admits, “There is only circumstantial evidence that the ads cause poor eating.”
What, then, is to blame for our nation’s supposedly overweight children? Respected researchers arrive at a much different conclusion: the decline of physical activity in children eclipses any increases in caloric intake. According to former FDA commissioner Mark McClellan, “actual levels of caloric intake among the young haven’t appreciably changed over the last twenty years.” Walking and biking trips among children have declined more than 60% since the 1970’s. Physical activity among teenagers has declined 13% since 1980. And only 21% of adolescents in America’s schools are enrolled in a physical education class.
“There is simply no scientific evidence proving that food advertisements contribute to childhood obesity, but there is an abundance of research showing that a lack of physical activity does, and this is where our efforts should be focused,” said Center for Consumer Freedom senior analyst Dan Mindus.