Despite promises, kids still bombarded with junk food ads


The food industry has promised to voluntarily stop advertising unhealthy junk food to children. And according to industry-sponsored reports they do live up to these promises.

A new independent scientific review show something completely different: Children are still the targets of lots of advertising. Independent surveys in Europe, Asia, Australia and North America showed little change in the last five years, despite industry’s assurances that things would improve. Here’s comments from the senior author of the study:

Self-regulation simply does not work in a highly competitive marketplace. Asking the companies to restrict their own marketing is like asking a burglar to fix the locks on your front door. They will say you are protected, but you are not.

So what could work? The three things that Big Junk Food fear the most:

  • Smarter, better-informed citizens
  • Government intervention
  • Lawsuits

Let’s face it: The industry will continue to fight on all three fronts. E.g. by trying to fool & confuse the public á la Coca Cola or spending millions on lobbyists to stop any regulation. Lawsuits may be their biggest vulnerability. But they will fight on all fronts. In a “highly competitive marketplace” they have no other choice.

We should stop expecting the burglar to fix our locks. Yes you too, Michelle Obama.


  1. MargaretRC
    We can't stop them from advertising--at least not in a free country. We have to simply be responsible parents and tell our kids "No" when they are swayed by the advertising and ask for things they shouldn't have. Government intervention and law suits are no substitute for good parenting. Of course, the parents have to be well informed, but I think, deep down, most parents know by now that Twinkies and other such are junk. It's the cereals with the heart check and other insidious labeling of junk as healthy that needs to be stopped.
  2. robert
    And it could be so simple on the buyer's side: if it is packaged (includes juice) and is sweet or starchy, treat it as what it really is: a sweet / desert. Maybe tolerable once a week, but not every day. A strong distrust in any kind of processed food would be helpful as well.

    This isn't going to go away with industry "self-regulation". We need to stop buying this carbage (*). Once they see their revenues plummet, they will adjust or perish.

    (*) all credits to Tom Naughton.

  3. Sonja Myers
    Lawsuits and education get my vote. Giving the Government the power to intervene in what we eat is a good route to eating what's best for the Government. The Government's first priority isn't our health. Geez, we'd have a lot more power if we just stopped eating the advertised crap. These companies would have to adapt or die.
  4. Srdjan Andrei Ostric
    Maybe we should stop paying our kids so much, and giving them driver's licences so that they will stop sneaking out after we fall asleep and go to the store and buy Twinkies with ogres on the label and eat them while we aren't watching...

    Oh, right.

    That doesn't happen.

    Parents buy the stuff because they are bunch of wimps and can't say no, and want the government to help correct the situation, so they won't feel so bad saying no. They'd rather blame Twinkies and Coke for the fact that they are wimps.

    Here's an idea: why not promise your kids to be better parents?

  5. murray
    I was bemused to read that a school in the US converted to the food program recommended by Michelle Obama. The kids would not eat the low-fat Nanny-state gruel and the school lost over $300,000.
    Reply: #6
  6. robert
    Kids don't like bland steamed broccoli.

    Add a big dollop of real butter and they will eat it.

    Reply: #7
  7. murray
    Yes, Robert, our kids do love broccoli with butter. Cheese sauce too. I use just a pinch of guar gum or xantham gum (instead of adding starch) to thicken the cream and cheese into a smooth, thick sauce. It's always a hit with the kids. Over time, they have come to prefer broccoli to most other vegetables. Leeks braised in cream and chicken stock with thyme still carries the crown.
  8. McVicar
    Notice how none of the three suggested alternatives include people taking responsibility for themselves and their children.

    When the government assumes the role of taking responsibility for its citizens, the citizens will stop taking responsibility for their own lives. And why wouldn't they?

    That is the fundamental cause. However, according to Swedish, public schools, the Swedish model is superior. A claim that was presented to me on several occasions and in many different contexts, during elementary and high school.

    Reply: #13
  9. Kimchi
    Americans have been saying the "we can't restrict the corporations freedom" nonsense while simultaneously chanting "we just need to take responsibility as patents" for decades now.

    Clearly it doesn't work. Time to get a clue.

  10. Kimchi
    "Notice how none of the three suggested alternatives include people taking responsibility for themselves and their children."

    It might be time to consider that isn't the way nature works. That free will doesn't exist in the way you think it exists, or that it does not exist with children and addictive substances. And that highly sophisticated marketing is more influential than anyone comprehends.

    Seriously, people saying the same old thing, when it clearly doesn't work that way, are stupid.

  11. Janknitz
    "Notice how none of the three suggested alternatives include people taking responsibility for themselves and their children."

    Sorry Doc, but I have to agree. Shrek twinkies are never coming into my house, no matter how hard my kids beg. Government money toward real public education ans public pressuere is fine (a la anti-smoking campaign) but government regulation is dangerous.

    How long before our government tells me I can't buy full fat dairy or whole eggs?

  12. NS
    Yet again more drivel and nonsense from Americans both unable to form - and deeply hostile to forming - their own thoughts. Ideology, uberalles, regardless of the consequences, social effects, or human suffering. The masters themselves could never have dreamed of creating more perfect slaves.

    Kimchi, your wise words and sound advice are wasted here on people who have already convinced themselves of their concludions and the hollow premises on which they are grounded.

  13. Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, MD Team Diet Doctor

    Notice how none of the three suggested alternatives include people taking responsibility for themselves and their children.

    That would be alternative #1: Smarter, better informed citizens.

    For people who think it's simply about calories it's an uphill struggle to stay healthy and for their kids it's possibly game over.

  14. FrankG
    "How long before our government tells me I can't buy full fat dairy or whole eggs?"

    Firstly the government is supposed to be made up of members including your own representative(s). Have you let your representative know your view on this matter?

    Secondly why assume that any such regulation by government is inevitable? Does tighter control over what big business is allowed to do, somehow automatically translate into telling EVERYONE what they can and cannot do?

    And last but not least what exactly do you expect would happen if you were denied full fat dairy or whole eggs? Do you really see such a regulation being allowed to stand in the face of public outcry, cross-border shopping and black-market trading? How would such a law be effectively enforced? How many Cuban cigars are smoked in the USA each year?

    Exhibit A: see how long the "Fat Tax" lasted in Denmark...

    Sure it makes a great rallying cry for the give me liberty or give me death crowd but it isn't really a realistic option now is it?

    I'll be the first to admit that the current democratic system is far from perfect but I see more to be gained by working with it and improving it, than by trying to subvert or even just ignore it.

  15. Robert Roberts
    This is a relevant and interesting item from the Freakonomics guys...
  16. BillP
    To have an informed citizenry you have to have people that read books and newspapers. About half of the people get their information from word-of-mouth and from tv and radio advertisers. Hardly leads to good decision making.
  17. Maria
    It is very unfortunate that our young ones are the ones targeted. Being a parent, i have a goal of instilling a sense of all things organic in my children as they grow and we have even planted some small vegetables in pots in this 'going organic' spirit. They are happy to eat what they have personally grown and I think the society should plant a positive element in the young ones so that they can steer clear of artificial foods that are damaging and embrace things that are whole and nutritious. Check out

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