First Lady Michelle Obama, well known for her campaign to combat childhood obesity is now saying that food companies need to curtail advertising aimed at pushing unhealthy foods on kids. Many critics say it’s long overdue for her to get involved in this issue and applaud her initial moves. However, they also say that she, and the White House, have not actually made any concrete suggestions or policy proposals that would force or encourage large companies like General Mills, Pepsico and Coca-Cola to back off. “I think this is a starting point,” said Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “For the first lady and the White House saying they are going to focus on food marketing and make it a priority, that’s significant.”
Experts indicate that while snack food makers have backed off on TV ads, they have doubled their buys in online ads, especially those embedded in games. “You have to convey to the industry that this is a fix-it-or-else situation and no one has done that. Everyone is saying, ‘Oh, please, oh, please.’ That simply isn’t adequate leverage to get the industry to take steps that would protect children but be contrary to their economic interests,” said Dale Kunkel, a University of Arizona communications professor.
This story really comes down to a simple equation. Large food companies that earn billions selling unhealthy food to us and our kids will not back off or back down unless they are forced or shamed into doing so. Their only interest is in making a profit and if childhood obesity, diabetes, early death, and huge healthcare costs are the result, that’s just fine with them. As always, big business will ultimately do the right thing just a day or so before hell freezes over.
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