Kids' Junk-Food Ads Reach All Time High

A November 10, 2003 MSNBC article from Reuters news starts off by saying, "A consumer group charged that the marketing of fatty, sugary, and low-nutrient foods was fueling childhood obesity and it called for restricting promotions targeted at the young." A Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, The Center for Science in the Public Interest, (CSPI) released a report that said advertising and marketing of what it termed junk foods had reached an all-time high.

The advocacy group CSPI noted that the wave of promotion was overwhelming parents' ability to manage their children's diets and had helped lead to a 15 percent obesity rate among children. Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for CSPI, told a news conference, "We acknowledge there are many contributors to obesity, but direct marketing of low nutritional-value foods to children is one of the most important contributors."

Current US federal rules do not restrict advertising content to children, only how much time ads can take up during children's programming. For example, current advertising time to kids is limited to 10.5 minutes per hour on weekends and 12 minutes per hour during the week. According to CSPI, marketing aimed at children, including food, increased from $6.9 billion in 1992 to $15 billion in 2002. Mary Story of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, said that for every $1 spent by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on child nutrition education, $10 is spent by companies promoting high-fat snacks, soft drinks, processed and fast foods.

CSPI asked the US Department of Health and Human Services to work with Congress and the Federal Trade Commission to limit "junk-food advertising aimed at children." It is currently estimated that in Britain and the United States, around 15 percent of children and adolescents are overweight or obese.