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Science Academy Urges Industry to Slow Marketing of Junk Food to Kids

Dec 6, 2005  •  Post A Comment

If broadcasters and cable TV operators don’t voluntarily agree to put a damper on the marketing of junk food and high-calorie beverages on children’s TV programming, Congress should approve legislation forcing the industry to clean up its act.

That was a key conclusion in a major report released Tuesday by the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine. “Current food and beverage marketing practices put kids’ long-term health at risk,” said J. Michael McGinnis, a senior scholar for the institute, in a statement.

According to the report, the industry spends $10 billion a year to market foods and beverages to children, with most of the emphasis on “high-calorie, low-nutrient products.” In addition, according to the report, the marketing succeeds in persuading children ages 2 through 11 to consume products that undermine their health.

To fight the practice, the institute recommended that the industry beef up its standards, agreeing to use popular TV characters to promote only healthy foods. In addition, the group recommended that the industry work with watchdog groups to develop an industrywide rating system to “convey the nutritional quality of foods and beverages in a consistent and effective fashion.”

Also, according to the report, the industry should include story lines promoting healthy eating habits in TV shows, films and games. On still another front, the industry and government should launch a promotional campaign to educate parents and their children about healthy eating choices. The institute also recommended that a federal agency monitor the industry’s response for up to two years before reporting to Congress “on the progress that has been made and additional actions that are needed.”