Media’s Role

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Food Marketing and Childhood Obesity Facts:  A Growing Problem

• One-third or 47,000 Atlanta youth are either overweight or obese and 94,000 are at risk of becoming obese.1
• In the past 30 years, the obesity rate among children ages 2-5 has nearly tripled to 14%, quadrupled for children ages 6-11 to 19%, and tripled for youth ages 12-19 to 17%.1,2
• Obesity is linked to increased risk for Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, cancer, and hypertension.3
• Due to increasing obesity rates, this generation of children may be the first in 200 years with a shorter life expectancy than their parents. 4

Food Marketing Works

• In 2006, based on a comprehensive review of the research, the Institute of Medicine issued a report finding strong evidence that television advertising influences children ’preferences, purchase requests, and diets. Among its recommendations: Stop using licensed characters to promote junk food.5

• Children consume about 167 extra calories for ever hour of TV that they watch. 6

• Youth ages 8-18 spend nearly 8 hours a day in front of screens using entertainment media, 5 of the 8 is spent watching T.V.24

• In a 2007 study, preschool children reported that food in McDonald’s wrappers tasted better than food in plain wrappers, suggesting that branding can even trump sensory input.9

It’s Everywhere

• Food and beverage advertisers are spending between $10 and $15 billion annually marketing to children. 10

• About 98% of all televised food ads seen by children are for foods high in sugar, fat, or sodium. 11

• In 2006, more than 80 different media programs were used to promote food to children through brand licensing or toy giveaways. That same year fas t food restaurants sold more than 1.2 billion kids meals with toys.15
• Coca-Cola paid $20 million for product placement in American Idol, which is frequently among the top rated TV shows for children 2-11.16

Mixed Messages

• In-school junk food advertising masquerades as education. Ronald McDonald visits schools to promote literacy, character education, and fitness. McDonald’s, Coke and Pepsi all have in-school fitness programs.19

• Characters appearing on high-sugar and high-calorie foods also appear on healthier foods, sending mixed messages to children. Dora the Explorer appears as a chocolate lollipop20 and on packaging for fruits and vegetables. 21

• Food and beverage companies are positioning themselves as partners in the fight against childhood obesity, yet corporations such as Coca Cola and Pepsico have consistently lobbied against state and local legislation to curb the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages in schools.22

We at General Mills follow the Procter and Gamble model of “cradle to grave.” We believe in getting them early and having them for life. -Wayne Chilicki, executive at General Mills.

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