Obesity is a big problem as far as people’s eating habits are concerned. However, even those companies that make these foods have been greatly criticized for playing a major role in exacerbating the problem. In an effort to reduce the consumption of fast foods or to reduce their negative impact, it is advisable to prepare meals at home. This is however problematic because of time and convenience.
On the other hand, the restaurants have been urged to work with scientists to try and find means of reducing fat-laden and high-calorie meals and as a result, reduce the problem of child obesity. This is very hard to achieve as this is both an economic and health issue. The two are very critical aspects of society. When the economy disintegrates, then the society suffers, furthermore the healthy people cannot be rated in monetary terms as life is considered to be sacred.
Obesity is a Strong Health Concern
In recent times, obesity has been regarded as an emerging health concern and it is considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a global epidemic (Hastings, et al, 2003, p. 57). Projections by the WHO indicate that nearly 1.6 billion adults of 15 years of age and above qualify as obese. In 2005, the WHO studies found that the obesity condition had surpassed habits like smoking as the main avertable root causing premature and avoidable fatalities (Hastings, et al, 2003, p. 58). Being overweight is also found to be the sixth most significant risk factor contributing to the disease burden in the world today.
A further projection by the WHO shows that approximately 2.3 million adults shall be overweight by 2015. A further 700 million of this population will qualify as being obese (World Health Organisation, 1998, p. 67). Over the years, Obesity in children especially the developed countries has increased and has become a major policy concern (Hastings, et al, 2003, p. 58). The notorious cases are Germany and the US. For this reason, there’s a lot of effort to stop the increase of these cases hence a lot of research on the subject (Neville et al, 2005, p. 105). Television adverts have been found to be among the major contributors to this increase in health problems.
Advertising food on television has greatly increased and this has subsequently increased snacking among children. Furthermore, children are easily influenced by these food adverts and end up consuming a lot of snacks and fast foods. Fast food is usually tasty their preparation is simple. This is the reason why colorful and persuasive adverts influence children a lot (Neville et al, 2005, p. 105).
For such reasons, children need to be protected from such influences because eating a snack is increasing and causing health problems. It is been found that a session of watching television for half an hour a day can translate to more snacking because of the food adverts and this will consequently lead to a weight gain of about 10 pounds in a period of one year (Morton et al, 2005, p. 32). This is unless this trend is mitigated by cutting down consumption of snacks and fast foods.
Children Obesity statistics
There is estimates that overweight children around the world are about 10% of total children as by World Health Organization studies. And the rate in 30% in nations that are considered industrialized economies (Susan, 2004, p. 368). Childhood obesity has increased drastically over the recent decades (Ebbeling, Pawlak & Ludwig 2002; Morton et al 2005, p. 32). The estimates by international Obesity Taskforce show that at least 155 million children of school-going age are suffering obesity symptoms and this is accountable for one child in ten children (Morton et al, 2005, p. 32).
There are a further 22 million children under 5 years who are obese or overweight. The fast-developing nations have experienced the greatest growth of obese cases on the world. In the last 20 years for example, there has been a tremendous increase in the reported cases of overweight and obesity among children in Australia (Kopelman 2005). The 4 year old boys and under increased from 7 to 14 percent while the prevalence in gals of the same ages rose from 9.3 to 15.7 percent from 1996 to 2003 (American Academy of Paediatrics, 2006, p. 2563).
Although it has been determined that the prevalence of obesity is generally lower in children than adults, the children who are obese are likely to grow up obese into adulthood. Worse yet, children who are obese pose a greater risk of developing risky medical conditions like depression, hypertension, type II diabetes and respiratory problems (Zuppa, et al 2003, p. 79).
Television Ads and Child obesity
The factors that influence obesity are basically behavioural, genetic and at times environmental. Besides these, obesity rates have been found to increase because advertising food on channels that children watch. Of course physical activities besides food intake have to be addresses as a factor for childhood obesity (Zuppa, et al 2003, p. 79). Recently, there have been increases in the obesity rates because of reduced physical activity and a notable increase in the use of foodstuffs that are of dense energy and very low food nutrients (Dixon et al, 2004, p. 1312).
It is quite evident that it’s the societal changes that have contributed to the environmental factors like media aiming children as their audience, reducing time for physical activities, increase in the number of fast-food outlets and sell of unhealthy foodstuffs at school (Chapman et al, 2006, p. 172). For instance, the American paediatric academy has recorded observing at least 40,000 food commercial ads each year. Furthermore, it is estimated that the time that students spend on electronic media especially television, recorded videos and the internet is approximately 5.5 hours every day (Kelly et al 2007, p. 1234).
There is a connection that links advertisement of food and the choices made by students regarding food stuffs. It is very easy for children to influence their parents concerning what they want to eat or buy (Dixon et al, 2004, p. 1312). Big companies like coca cola spends over 1.5 billion on placing adverts while fast food places like McDonalds spend 1.2 billion and Pepsi spent over 0.7 billion. Organisation like the WHO and coalition on food advertisements for small children claim that placing very tough restrictions could be limiting some adverts that bring about the bad outcomes hence are very necessary (Kelly et al 2007, p. 1234).
This is because there is increasing need to address the crisis in childhood obesity with regard that advertising junk food plays a big role in creating the mood for children to eat unhealthy foods. There is another argument that there is very little evidence to link advertisements children TV and unhealthy eating (Kelly & Chau, 2007, p. 18). This means that limiting TV advertisements of these food stuffs is not adequate way of addressing the problems of obesity among children (Magnus et al, 2009, p. 1095). Even though obesity in children is a condition that is multi-factorial, reduced advertising of food on television is one critical approach that encourages children to make correct and healthy choices on food they eat.
Research has indicated that commercials of junk food over the television are very common on TVs and there are higher chances children are always watching. Several statistical methods have been used for this study and the obesity rates among children correlated with the extent or the amount of time those children spent watching the television (Magnus et al, 2009, p. 1095). Viewing fast food adverts increased the compulsion to go for the junk food and children are easily attracted to this hence the reason their obesity risk was higher depending on how much TV a child watched (Gunter & McAleer, 1999, p. 89).
As it has been proved that overweight children were likely to spend a lot of time watching TV that other normal children, there is need to limit this since it is very easy to get even more children to get addicted to TV. On the other hand, research has also indicated that a ban on fast food ads on the Television would cut down the ever increasing number of obese children by 18% in the United States (Gunter & McAleer, 1999, p. 89). Obesity can lead to a cascade of other health problems like hypertension, diabetes among others. It’s hence important to take every precaution and protect the children.
TV Adverts of Food in the US
There are few set guidelines that govern the US food advertisement targeting children. There is a program called Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) that was put in place by advert review council to support socially responsible advertising for children. CARU has a regulatory strategy with strong principles for different sectors to guarantee that the adverts that are directed to children not misleading, exaggerated or unsuitable for children (Kiess et al, 2001, p. 31).
The guidelines set by CARU are only applicable to children under the age of 12 years. The guidelines demand that the quantity of food should not go beyond the provisions on Fact panel. The food adverts should not portray food in such a manner that concentrates so much on health and welfare of children disregarding crucial and sensitive information about consequences (Kiess et al, 2001, p. 31). CARU’s recommendations do not have the legitimate authority over the advertisements of food and can only make requests to advertisers who are willing to voluntarily comply. However, several big names in the food industry support CARU. McDonalds, Cadbury, coca cola and Schweppes among others support CARU (Story & French, 2004, p. 3).
The current advertising policy is founded on recommendations from international organization like the WHO. UK’s committee on medical aspects of Food also plays a big role in this (Veerman et al. 2009, p. 365). There are recommendations that the total energy shall not exceed 33% (from fat). There should not be over 10% of energy from sugars and carbohydrates.
The problem with advertising food is a major policy issue. About 15% of children in US are overweight or obese (Kiess et al 2001, p. 31). It has also been found that 57% of the advertisements are done during children programs (Veerman, et al. 2009, p. 365). About 46 percent of all the adverts were about food stuffs that are very high in fats, salts and sugars.
TV Adverts of Food in the US
UK adverts for Food
In the United Kingdom, Office of communications deals with all communications on media and its jurisdiction included adverts. Ofcom came up with new regulations in 2007 to regulate advertisement of food to children. These laws prohibit adverts of foods with high percentage of fats, sugars or salts targeting children of 9 years or less. In 2008, the law was made more strict to target 15 year children and less. The law demanded no advertisement for foods with high fats, salts and sugars to this group. The UK records an average of 2.45 hours of a day for watching TV among the children. This is one of the reasons why 16% of boys below 10 years are obese and the rate is at 11% for girls.
Strengths and Weaknesses of Such Policies
The food market has changed greatly and gone are the days when marketers directed their adverts on mothers because they were thought to be the ones dominating the decision to buy (Ebbeling et al, 2002, p. 473). This was logical enough as it is quite obvious that it’s the parents who pay food bills (Hastings et al. 2003, p. 34). However the art has changed and has become more sophisticated and they employ subtle influential strategies that capture children who in turn cause their parents to succumb to their wishes.
A major weakness is that advertisement has greatly developed and has a very persuasive influence on the targeted people (Hastings et al. 2003, p. 36). Products have become subordinated to their branding. In most cases nowadays, it is not the product that people are selling but the image and the lifestyle that the products seem to portray. For instance, modern life is associated with cheeseburger and fizzy drinks.
This is one experience that is seductive and tantalizing and this easily pulls people into it (Haslam & James, 2005, p. 1198). Children are very vulnerable as there are some means used by marketers that are irresistible. For instance, use of sportswear for children, charitable donations to school, sponsors and use of cartoon characters. These methods are very hard to fight when it comes to advertising foods (Haslam & James, 2005, p. 1198).
Codes of practise
It is quite a big challenge that for so long, the advertising sector has been a self regulating industry and their terms are voluntary. Television advertisements are provided under the Independent Television Commission. This codes state that the food ads should not discourage proper eating habits and of course they don’t rather they encourage bad eating habits (Kelly et al, 2001, p. 45). According to that law, the TV adverts have done nothing wrong hence fighting them is a big huddle.
In the US, the American federal commission of trade attempted to ban all TV ads on food that were deemed to be directed to children under seven years and the food industry waged war and won in 1978 (Ebbeling et al 2002, p. 473). Ever since, the food industries have been wining this fight: Worse of it all is that the food adverts spend millions of money promoting food high fat, sugar and other unhealthy substances whereas none of very few promoted fruits and vegetables (Haslam & James 2005, p. 1198).
Children tend to think that they will remain youthful all their life and again junk foods are accepted by peers as fashionable. So despite attempts to ban advertisements, children will still hang out with personal do what peers do, like eating and drinking at McDonalds. Fast food meals are very popular with children because they are very tasty to resist, they are cheap, they are readily available, they are convenient and they are very fast (Mokdad et al 2004, p. 1238).
According to research, eating only two fast food meals per week can very destructive. This is because they risk of getting obese is increased by 50%. For instance a breakfast meal with fries, nuggets, burgers can greatly elevate the risk as these foods contain high levels of sugar, refined floor, salt (sodium) and oils (Ebbeling et al 2002, p. 473). This combination in itself is a health hazard.
Healthy eating is being advocated for by almost every health organization across America. This has also increased awareness and consideration of the health impact that food portends to individuals (Mokdad et al 2004, p. 1238). The healthy eating trends have also been seen to have improved drastically. This is attributed to their fact that people have become very knowledgeable about health and nutrition (Neville et al, 2005, p. 104).
As people in American continue consuming large amounts of food product that are unhealthy, ready-made, unnatural processed food stuffs, there is a already a backlash against this and this has been communicated, (World Health Organisation 2003, p. 123). The important healthy eating trends are seen in the areas of organic foods, vegetarian, juicing and raw foods. The government has been instrumental in driving the nation towards healthy eating.
Analyzing the Policy Setting
Stakeholders like politicians, human health organizations or activists in their campaigns do not consider food policy as a major campaign tool. This is because the federal policies that concern foods have been able to keep the prices low especially corn, wheat and rice (Durant et al 1994, p. 452). The prices of organic food product are slightly higher than that of other food products because these foods are more nutritious and have been recommended by health experts (Hastings et al 2003, p. 89). Junk foods on the other hand are cheaper but can cause serious health problems. However the cost and availability of foods are not the only problems.
There some potentially fatal diseases are also linked to the types of food that children consume (Marion 2006, p. 2528). Research has shown that of the four leading cause of illness and death are food related; cancer, heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes are as a result of bad eating habits (World Health Organisation 2003, p. 123).
It’s important to realize that children are not tomorrows consumers are it has been perceived but what they eat today possess a risk to their future lives (World Health Organisation 2003, p. 125). Children are influences by several factors when they need to make choices about what they eat. This factor can be very important in deciding the type of adverts or promotions of food to place or they type of policy implementation to use to handle the problem of obesity. Individual factors like eating habits, preferences and tastes can cause children to like certain foods which are unhealthy (Kotz & Story 1994, p. 1296).
Social factors like peer influence and also impact of celebrities or other respected people who have been seen using such food stuffs also form a big influencer. Availability of food is also a factor. Children’ access to food depends on the types of food available on the market especially for the poor families who can only go for the cheap food, (Kotz & Story 1994, p. 1296). The type of food itself in terms of taste, texture and colour can appeal differently to children and in most cases they increase the probability of unhealthy eating (Byrd-Bredbenner & Grasso 2000, p. 189).
The most relevant organizations have been the consumer organizations like heart foundation in the UK. Heart Foundation is a strong fun in this policy and has been an ardent supporter as well as a strong advocate of the strategies being used in this regard. The Heart foundation believes that there is strong need to regulate and tighten laws that address food and beverage adverts directly to children (Morton 2000, p. 153).
The foundation also wants new rules established to encourage promotion of organic foods or the ones considered nutritious foods so that healthy eating is promoted (Hastings et al 2003, p. 89). Consumer organisations also support the fact that government thinks that the children have to be protected from the commercial promotions of foods stuffs. This is particularly important because children are very vulnerable to the marketing trick hence regulation has to be in place to sufficiently protect children from this menace (Hastings et al 2003, p. 89). Food, unlike other commodities on the market, are advertised directly to consumers yet misuses or in correct information about them can actually bring about more damage than good.
There are efforts to seek banning of all food adverts promoting unhealthy food to children under 16 years. Such bans will cover every media aspect ranging from radio, internet, and television (Morton 2000, p. 154). The non-commercial adverts in the social markets like those developed by non-governmental organizations are the only exceptions of this law that is yet to be implemented (Hill & Radimer 1997, p. 174).
Promotions that are directed to children will be banned in total in some areas even when they are supporting healthy or unhealthy eating (Hill & Radimer 1997, p. 174). Adverts targeting children are described as those promotional activities that specifically appeal to children by use of the criteria below:
- Adverts that come when children are most likely to be watching TV or ads that appear on children programs or showing such adverts in places that are frequently visited by children (Hill & Radimer 1997 p. 174).
- Placing food adverts that are intended for children or are likely to appeal more to children (Hill & Radimer 1997, p. 174).
- Adverting foods on features or collectable that are specifically more appealing to children (Smith 2001, p. 96).
- Using adverts with concepts, stories, themes, photos activities or other presentations that appeal more to young minds
- Advertisements that use celebrities, or personalities that are very popular with children (Smith 2001, p. 98)
Advertising media still get bombard children with adverts if junk food despite development of rules that aim at dealing with obesity in UK, US and other developed nations (Marion 2006, p. 2528). The UK’s consumer organisations are strongly supporting government effort to stop adverts that influence children are eating habits. They say that there should be a 9 pm watershed for such food stuffs since research indicates that this is the time when most children watch TV (Hitchings & Moynihan 1998, p. 512).
As it has been proved that overweight children were likely to spend a lot of time watching TV than other normal children, there is need to limit these food adverts and children program since it is very easy to get even more children to get addicted to TV (Hitchings & Moynihan 1998, p. 513). On the other hand, research has also indicated that a ban on fast food ads on the Television would cut down the ever increasing number of obese children by 18% in the United States.
Obesity can lead to a cascade of other health problems like hypertension, diabetes among others. It’s hence important to take every precaution and protect the children. Studies suggest that though fast foods are convenient and readily accessible, they present very low nutritional value (Neville et al 2005, p. 109). This is because the carbohydrates in these foods are of low quality, like the white bread; they contain elevated levels of highly saturated fats which causes the low density lipids (LDL’s or bad cholesterol) in the body to increase and this is risk factor for hypertension and other cardiovascular disorders (Byrd-Bredbenner & Grasso 2000, p. 191).
The fast food meals have very concentrated caloric density and this means that when taking a meal, the body cannot register when it is enough and as a result, more food is consumed and this translates to weight gain (Ostbye et al 2003, p. 372). As established earlier, the sugar levels in the fast food meals increases the glucose levels and this stimulates the release of insulin which in turn stimulates the utilization of the excess sugar in form of blood glucose and this also translates to weight gain. Their use should be discouraged
Health experts and nutritionists propose that healthy eating should entail consumption of organic food products. These foods are said to have very minimal toxic substances because of the way they are produced (World Health Organisation 2004, p. 145). Synthetic toxins that usually get into plants during farming can have adverse impact on health, (Ostbye et al 2003, p. 372). Organic foods pose lesser risk for such to take place. They also have natural flavor as opposed to additives in junk foods. For healthy eating, American should change to organic foods rather than fast foods.
The cost of the organic food products became very high and it was the most common reason given by people for not purchasing fresh organic foods or grains when they visit their groceries (Ostbye et al 2003, p. 373). Having nothing else factored in this kind of mindset, it seems very fine. A simple explanation is that healthy organic foods cost a little higher than the other foods at the time of purchasing.
However assessing beyond this, then the notion get out of the reality. Health as a variable has to be considered (World Health Organisation 2004, p. 145). Essentially this is what was missing and has resulted in people suffering health wise. The Americans has failed to factor health in the cost of feeding themselves. For this they failed to recognize that the higher cost of getting healthy organic food initially is dwarfed by the expenses they incur throughout their lives seeking medication yet there was a very simple solution.
American Academy of Paediatrics. 2006. Children, Adolescents, and Advertising. A Acad Pedi, Vol.118, No. 6, pp. 2563-69.
Byrd-Bredbenner, C, & Grasso, D. 2000. ‘What is television trying to make children swallow?: content analysis of the nutrition information in prime-time advertisements’, Journal of Nutrition Education,Vol. 32, pp.187-195.
Chapman, K., Nicholas, P., & Supramaniam, R. 2006. ‘How Much Food Advertising Is There On Australian Television?,’ Health Promotion International, Vol. 21, No. 3, pp.172-80.
Dixon, H. G et al. 2004. ‘The Effects Of Television Advertisements For Junk Food Versus Nutritious Food On Children’s Food Attitudes And Preferences,’ Soc Sci Med, Vol. 65, No. 7, pp.1311-23.
Durant, R.H, Baranowski, T., Johnson, M, & Thompson, W.O. 1994. ‘The Relationship Among Television Watching, Physical Activity, And Body Composition Of Young Children,’ Pediatrics, Vol. 94, No. 4, pp. 449-55.
Ebbeling, C.B, Pawlak, D.B, & Ludwig, D.S. 2002. ‘Childhood obesity: public-health crisis, common sense cure,’ Lancet, Vol. 360, No. 9331, pp. 473-82.
Gunter, B & McAleer, J. 1999. Children And Television, Lonond, Routlegde Publishers.
Haslam, D.W, & James, W.P., 2005. Obesity. Lancet, Vol. 366, No. 9492, pp. 1197-209.
Hastings, G, et al., 2003. Review Of The Research On The Effects Of Food Promotion To Children. Centre For Social Marketing, Glasgow (UK).
Helen, G.D et al., 2007. The Effects Of Television Advertisements For Junk Food Versus Nutritious Food On Children’s Food Attitudes And Preferences, Social Science & Medicine, Vol. 65, Issue 7, Pp 1311-1323.
Hill, J., & Radimer, K. 1997. ‘A Content Analysis Of Food Advertisements In Television For Australian Children,’ Aust J Nutr Diet; 54: 174-80.
Hitchings, E & Moynihan, P.J. 1998. ‘The Relationship Between Television Food Advertisements Recalled And Actual Foods Consumed By Children,’ J Hum Nutr Diet. ; 11 (6): 511-7.
Kelly, B, Et Al. 2001. ‘Television Food Advertising To Children: A Global Perspective,’ American Journal Of Public Health (In Progress). Food Advertising To Children: Update 12.
Kelly, B., Smith, B., King, L., Flood, V & Bauman A. ‘Television Food Advertising To Children: The Extent And Nature Of Exposure,’ Public Health Nutrition 2007;10:1234 – 40.
Kelly, B.P & Chau, J.Y. 2007. Children S Television Sub-Standards: A Call For Significant Amendments. Medical Journal Of Australia; 186:1:18.
Kiess, W., et al. 2001. ‘Clinical aspects of obesity in childhood and adolescence,’ Obes Rev; 2(1):29-36.
Kopelman, P. G., 2005. Clinical obesity in adults and children: In Adults and Children. London: Blackwell Publishing.
Kotz, K, & Story, M. 1994. ‘Food Advertisements During Children’s Saturday Morning Television Programming: Are They Consistent With Dietary Recommendations?’ J Am Diet Assoc, Vol. 94, Vol. 11, pp.1296-300.
Magnus, A., Haby, M.M, Carter, R. & Swinburn, B 2009. ‘The Cost-Effectiveness Of Removing Television Advertising Of High-Fat And/Or High-Sugar Food And Beverages To Australian Children,’ International Journal Of Obesity. Vol. 33(10):1094-102.
Marion, N. 2006. Food Marketing and Childhood Obesity — A Matter of Policy, Engl J Med; 354: 2527-2529.
Mokdad, A., Marks, J., Stroup, D, & Gerberding, J. 2004. ‘Actual causes of death in the United States, JAMA. 2004;291(10):1238-45.
Morton, H. 2000. ‘Television Food Advertising: A Challenge For The New Public Health In Australia,’ Community Health Stud; 14: 153-61.
Morton, H., et al. 2005. ‘Food Advertising And Broadcasting Legislation A Case Of System Failure? Nutrition And Dietetics, 62, (6); 32.
Neville, L., Thomas, M, & Bauman, A. 2005. ‘Food Advertising On Australian Television: The Extent Of Children’s Exposure,’ Health Promot Int. 20(2):105-12.
Neville, L., Thomas, M., & Bauman, A. 2005. ‘Food advertising on Australian television: the extent of children s exposure,’ Health Promotion International; 20 (2): Pp. 105-12.
Ostbye, T., et al. 2003. ‘Food And Nutrition In Canadian ‘Prime Time’ Television Commercials,’ Can J Public Health; 84(6): 370-74.
Smith G. 2001. Children’s food: Marketing and innovation. New York: Blackie Academics, pp 94-118.
Story, M & French, S. 2004. ‘Food Advertising and Marketing Directed at Children and Adolescents in the US’, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 1:3.
Susan, E.L. 2004. Food Marketing To Children In The Context Of A Marketing Maelstrom, Journal Of Public Health Policy, Vol. 25, No. 3/4, Pp. 367-378.
Veerman, J.L., et al. 2009. ‘By How Much Would Limiting TV Food Advertising Reduce Childhood Obesity?,’ Eur J Public Health. Vol. 19, No. 4, pp. 365-9.
World Health Organisation. 1998. Obesity: preventing and managing the global epidemic: Report of a WHO consultation on obesity. Geneva (CHE): WHO.
World Health Organisation. 2003. Obesity And Overweight: Global Strategy On Diet, Physical Activity And Health. Geneva(CHE): WHO.
World Health Organisation. 2004. Global Strategy On Diet, Physical Activity And Health. Geneva (CHE): WHO.
Zuppa, J., Morton, H., & Mehta, K. 2003. ‘Television Food Advertising: Counterproductive To Children S Health? A Content Analysis Using The Australian Guide To Healthy Eating,’ Nutrition And Dietetics; 60:78-84.