UPDATED: Will a Ban on Junk Food Ads Curb Childhood Obesity?

UPDATED: Will a Ban on Junk Food Ads Curb Childhood Obesity?
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The Council of Better Businesses, which oversees the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative has issued a statement today contesting the validity of the studies used by the American Academy of Pediatrics in the call for a ban on specific advertising on children’s television shows.

The Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) is committed to being a part of the solution and supporting parents by advertising products that encourage healthier choices and healthy lifestyles. To that end, an effort to improve targeted advertising has been ongoing.

"Much of the American Academy of Pediatrics statement regarding an ad ban is based on old or seriously flawed data. Simply put, if advertising caused obesity, why have obesity rates increased while television advertising has dropped significantly? With the 17 CFBAI industry participants representing a substantial majority of the ads on children's TV programming, the ad mixture has changed for the better, as the IOM recommended in its 2006 report. Ads to kids now are for yogurt, soup, canned pasta, cereals, and meals with vegetables or fruit, milk or juice.

"While the American Academy of Pediatrics constructively urges doctors to talk to parents about limits on screen time and TVs in bedrooms, the ad ban statement is based on studies with ad data sets that pre-date the CFBAI, that use flawed methodologies, that disregard significant product improvements or look at non-relevant measures, NOT evidence and does not support a ban," said Elaine Kolish, Vice President and Director, BBB's Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative.


In an effort to gain ground in the battle against America’s fast-spreading epidemic of childhood and adolescent obesity, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is calling for a ban on the broadcast of junk food and fast food advertising during children’s television shows.

The nation’s leading group of pediatricians recently published a policy statement in the journal Pediatrics asking for the support of Congress, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Federal Communications Commission in prohibiting such ads not only on TV, but also on cell phones as well as other digital media.

In addition the group’s outcry calls for the elimination of such products being featured in movies, a practice that makers of the products pay big bucks for as a highly successful form of advertising.

In their statement, the AAP noted that over the past three decades, the number among America’s youth who are overweight or obese has doubled, now accounting for one-third of the nation’s children and teens. The group stated that obesity is “a clear and present danger” to both.

They also pointed out that a number of previous studies have shown that watching TV is a factor that contributes to weight gain. It is estimated that the ban could reduce the rates of overweight children and childhood obesity by as much as 15 to 20 percent.

Regarding the statement, lead author Dr. Victor Strasburger, a professor of pediatrics at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine in Albuquerque, said, “Given that we are smack in the midst of an epidemic of child and adolescent obesity, it doesn't seem like all that bad an idea.” He went on to say, “We created a perfect storm between media use, junk and fast food advertising, and physical inactivity. We created a situation where we now have more overweight and obese adults in the U.S, than underweight and normal weight adults; it’s become an urgent public health problem.”

The statement noted that the more time youngsters spend snacking as couch potatoes who watch TV and movies, or text and play games on cell phones, the less time they have for engaging in healthy activities such as walking, running or simply playing outdoors. Furthermore, just what children are watching has a big impact on eating habits, especially when they are bombarded with ads for foods that are high in both fat and sugar.

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