Opinion and Editorial
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Blame it on advertising

Filed on December 15, 2005

IF OBESITY in children has acquired alarming proportions, junk food and modern sedentary lifestyle are to blame. While this is not news to any of us, what is not widely known is the fact that advertising plays a crucial role in influencing children’s culinary choices and driving them towards junk food.

Expert at the US-based Institute of Medicine, who’ve been studying the phenomenon of growing obesity in children, argue that food commercials targeting children greatly influence what they choose to eat. Last year, the food industry spent a staggering $10 billion on advertising for kids. No wonder obesity in American children has quadrupled over the past 25 years.

While there’s nothing wrong with food commercials and advertising per se, what is disturbing is the practice of thrusting unhealthy choices on children who are easily taken in by appearances and hardly know what is good or bad for them in health terms. Most commercials aimed at children glorify foods with little or no nutritional value such as sugared cereals, soda and fast food that truly qualifies as junk. This is why more and more nutritionists, scientists and parents in the West are calling for regulating advertising that promotes unhealthy eating habits among children.

Earlier this week, the European Union asked junk food makers to stop targeting children as part of a drive to check obesity in children. While it may not be possible to completely rein in the powerful advertising industry, the food industry should be at least persuaded to offer healthier choices to children. They are after all our future.


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