Change the Ads, Change the Eating Habits?

March 2, 2008 at 2:25 pm Leave a comment

Obesity rates are increasing throughout the world, and governments are encouraging fast-food companies to respond.

In November 2007, 11 major European Union (EU) food and beverage companies – Mars, Burger King, Coca-Cola, Danone, Ferrero, General Mills, Kellogg, Kraft, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever – announced a common commitment to change the way the advertise to children by signing a pledge, taking effect January 1, 2009 and developed by the EU Platform on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. The Platform was set up in 2005 to create a forum to tackle nutrition, overweight and obesity and their related health problems.

The participating EU companies agreed to follow strict guidelines for advertising to kids under 12, with a focus on avoiding ads for any foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar:

  • No more than 560 calories per meal
  • Less than 30% of calories from fat
  • Less than 10% of calories from saturated fat
  • No added trans fats
  • No more than 10% of calories from added sugars
  • No more than 660mg of sodium
  • No added artificial colors or flavorings

Similar guidelines have been voluntarily agreed on with 14 U.S. companies as well, and just last week, Burger King U.S. issued details of how it would promote healthy eating by pushing the “four-piece chicken tender, applesauce and low-fat milk or calcium-enriched apple juice” meal.

“The ads running today show only the most nutritionally balanced kid’s meal on the menu, and when physical activity and outdoor play can be incorporated into the advertisement, we do that as well,” says U.S. Burger King spokesperson Keva Silversmith.

The question is, will this change in advertising help stem the rising tide of obesity? According to a recent story on Yahoo! News, ads definitely play a role in how much kids eat. Fast Food Ads Fueling Obesity Among Hispanic Kids reported that, “the large number of fast food commercials on Spanish-language television in the United States may be contributing to the obesity epidemic among Hispanic youths.”

“While we cannot blame overweight and obesity solely on TV commercials, there is solid evidence that children exposed to such messages tend to have unhealthy diets and to be overweight,” lead investigator Dr. Darcy Thompson said in a prepared statement.

Sounds like it’s worth a try. I think that there have to be more than 10-15 companies willing to participate, though, for this sort of change to have a lasting impact on the situation. And, there’s a lot more to the obesity problem than advertising. But it’s a start, and you have to start somewhere.

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Entry filed under: news around the blogosphere, science. Tags: , .

Scared of the Scale Short on Shut-Eye

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