If you’re wondering why your kids are always drawn to the least healthy foods imaginable, just look at the packaging and advertising that’s associated with them.
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, food marketing intentionally targets children who are too young to distinguish advertising from truth and induces them to eat high-calorie, low-nutrient (but highly profitable) junk foods.
Not only that, but cartoon characters that represent a particular food actually make that food taste better to children, according to a 2006 study in Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
If your kid is a fan of Disney however, you’re in luck. Mickey Mouse and the gang haven’t been allowed to represent junk food since 2006. That means your child isn’t associating those iconic characters with bad-for-you foods.
Well, maybe not directly.
If the same unhealthy foods the characters aren’t allowed to represent are still being advertised on commercial breaks during kids’ TV shows and on kid-friendly websites, kids are more likely to identify and remember the associated product (not a good thing if that product happens to be a glorified bowl of white sugar).
Luckily, Disney is now cutting advertising for foods that fail to meet minimum nutrition requirements during children's programming and on its kid-focused websites.
But is that enough? Minimum nutrition requirements don’t necessarily equal optimum health. Wouldn’t it make more sense to use the power of branding to promote the healthiest foods possible?
The childhood obesity epidemic in North America is at an all-time high, with 26 percent of Canadian children and nearly a third of U.S. children being overweight or obese.
By continuing to allow marketing of these foods to children, are we setting them up for failure?
What do you think? Should junk food advertising be banned from children’s television?
-Katharine Watts, Associate Web Editor