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Don't feed kids junk



Published: Thu, January 20, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Detroit Free Press: The food pyramid is a great guide for adults who can understand it. But for young people, the information they get about food is more likely to come from the halls of school or the advertisements they see on TV.

That's why a proposal to limit the marketing of junk food to kids makes so much sense. The Center for Science in the Public Interest wants food manufacturers voluntarily to stop marketing low-nutritional drinks and step up marketing of water, low-fat milk and drinks offering at least 50 percent fruit juice. The nonprofit health research group -- often called the food police for ruining people's unhealthy fun -- favors allowing companies free range in marketing healthy foods but banning the prominent placement of ads for foods with high fat content in movies or other programs designed for kids.

In short, McDonald's and Burger King would have to think of smarter and healthier ways to sell themselves to children.

Marketing message

With the huge profits food manufacturers have reaped targeting children, they have the resources to think smarter about them. It's true that the companies don't put junk in young people's mouths. But their marketing messages, to the tune of $15 billion a year, have added to the reasons so many children find it impossible to say no.

About half of the commercials targeted at children every day entice young people with foods that make them fat, CSPI researchers estimate. The fact that vending machines in a growing number of school districts now feature as much milk and water as sugar-loaded soda is proof companies can still profit from being more responsible.

Only in a perfect world, manufacturers would swallow these limitations easily. They'll resist. But parents and other outraged citizen groups should press that much harder to make their views known to the food companies.

They need to get the firm message: Stop playing with children's health.




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