The most popular kids TV Network, Nickelodeon, should be ashamed of itself, says the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer watchdog group, in its latest expose. The reason: Most of the ads running on the network are for food products that promote obesity, diabetes, and other health problems in young children.
This is especially irritating because the industry set up a self-regulatory body with the Better Business Bureau – the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) – several years ago. Once again, this goes to show that you can’t have the cat watching over the cream. Just as with the ill-fated Smart Choice Program, the nutrition benchmarks that this group have set are – how shall we say – very lenient.
CSPI evaluated the nutritional quality based on the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity’s (NANA) Model
School Wellness Policies on Physical Activity and Nutrition. It’s a standard supported by over 50 health, nutrition, and education organizations.
Here are some findings:
- Of 425 foods and beverages that were advertised, 267 (60%) were sub par nutritionally (too much sugar, salt or fat, for example).
- 25% of the products had excess sugar.
- None of Pepsico’s 10 products met the nutritional minimum.
- The only bright spot – the figures are slightly better than 4 years ago, when 90% of commercials were for junk food.
You can download the full report here (PDF)
What to do at the supermarket:
My mother recently reminded me how as a 7 year old tagging along on her grocery shopping trips I would pick up a box of cereal I had seen on Saturday Morning cartoons. In a serious tone I would tell her “We need to buy this, mom.” and then add “They said on TV that it’s good for you.” Most often, the box would find itself back on the supermarket shelf.
Luckily, in retrospect, my parents had good sense. And I hope you do too. Teach your children at an early age to read critically, to look for products with good values in nutrition labels. In breakfast cereal for example, sugar should be below 8 grams per serving, and fiber higher than 3 grams. By getting your children involved in the nutrition hunt, they will be more apt to choose better products together with you.
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