New Ad Role Eyed for Cartoon Characters; Report Seeks Promotion of Healthy Food Habits
Byline: Marguerite Higgins, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Cartoon characters like SpongeBob SquarePants and Shrek should promote healthy foods instead of junk food to children ages 12 and younger, a government report said yesterday.
The report, by the Institute of Medicine at the National Academies, examined 123 scientific studies to determine the role food ads, particularly those on television, play in children's eating habits.
"Current food and beverage marketing practices put kids' long-term health at risk," said J. Michael McGinnis, a senior scholar at the nonprofit scientific society, which was established in 1970 to advise Congress on medical care and health matters.
Congress last year requested the study, which took about a year and $700,000 to put together.
"Strong evidence" shows youth-directed food ads, which primarily market foods high in calories, fat and sugar, influence the food preferences of children ages 2 to 11, the study said. But the study did not quantify the ads' influence.
While food and beverage ads are a factor in the nation's rising childhood obesity rate, the institute stopped short of blaming the industry for causing weight gain in children.
About 16 percent of children, ages 6 to 19, are overweight, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The institute urged manufacturers and restaurants to shift more of the estimated $10 billion they spend on child-targeted ads annually toward products that are lower in calories and higher in nutritional content. …