An Analysis of the Correlation Between Food Marketing and Childhood Obesity

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An Analysis of the Correlation Between Food Marketing and Childhood Obesity

Karima Kaddouri
Spring 2012
Research Paper # 2

Overweight children are an increasingly serious problem from the public health perspective, as they are at risk for a large number of diseases and medical issues like diabetes, cancer, and hypertension. The rate of teen obesity increased to 15.5 percent and the rate of childhood obesity rose to 15.3 percent since the eighties (Linn & Novosat 2008).

More recently, over thirty percent of American children are considered overweight according to a 2008 study (Linn & Novosat 2008). We can only safely assume that this rate has increased. In parallel with this rise in childhood obesity, the rate of food marketing for children (both regulated and unregulated) has witnessed a dramatic increase (Linn & Novosat 2008). Cap'n Crunch cereals were allocated a budget of $ 15 million for children marketing (Linn & Novosat 2008). Burger King spent around eighty million dollars on children advertising by the year of 2000 (Linn & Novosat 2008). Nowadays, food marketing for children is allocated 10 to 15 billion dollars per year (Linn & Novosat 2008).

the Institute of Medicine (IOM) conducted studies demonstrating a possible correlation between food marketing which targets children and childhood obesity (Linn & Novosat 2008). Their findings, released in a report in 2006 pointed out that television advertising affects the children's spending patterns for food and beverage (Linn & Novosat 2008). It was shown that candy, snacks and junk food have the biggest part in the children's share of wallet (Linn & Novosat 2008). This review supported another study done by the World Health Organization that found that childhood obesity risks are strongly linked to the intensive food marketing and television advertising of junk food and high calories snacks (Linn & Novosat 2008).

There -obviously- exists regulations and laws the FTC puts as a restriction and constraint to heavy marketing targeting children that could be of harmful nature to children (Linn & Novosat 2008) . One of these regulations is the Children Television Act (1990) that constrains and puts a limit to the acceptable number of ads during children's shows. (Linn & Novosat 2008) However, under the pressure of legislation and government agencies, the marketing departments found new ways and tricks in order to influence children, be it for a really short time (subconsciously speaking) (Linn & Novosat 2008). Child psychologists for instance, are hired in order to understand the mind of children, their activities, interests, opinions, and anything that can trigger a need to buy a given product (Linn & Novosat 2008). As a result of such tactics, parental influence decreases and marketers' influence on children's eating choices increases more and more (Linn & Novosat 2008).

There are many strategies used by marketers in order to impact on the young consumers and one of them is called "Brand Licensing" (Linn & Novosat 2008). Brand Licensing is basically linking a product to a beloved or famous media character (Linn & Novosat 2008). For instance, MC Donald extensively links its image to that of various children shows' characters such as Snoopy, Monster Inc, Shrek etc... through the toys they put in their so famous Happy Meals. Cereal packages are also filled with popular characters such as Spider Man, Captain Jack Sparrow or Ninja Turtles. Associating a show or its main character with a particular food product is very effective because the character or TV program becomes itself a symbol of the brand (Linn & Novosat 2008). This technique is a two edged sword as it can either promote bad eating habits or on the contrary generate role models for children to follow healthy diets (Linn & Novosat 2008). An example of this would Nickelodeon's Sponge Bob Square Pants and its appearance on...
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