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Obesity

Essay by   •  September 30, 2010  •  1,206 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,351 Views

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1 Why are children getting fatter?

Food is cheaper than ever, particularly the popular "value" lines. Today, it's possibly

cheaper to eat snacks and ready meals than fruit and vegetables. Work and time

commitments mean convenience foods are frequently selected instead of home

cooking. This has become a vicious circle so children are now growing up without

the knowledge and experience of cooking.

Marketing campaigns for confectionery are stronger and louder than healthy eating

messages. The use of character merchandising and peer pressure often means that

parents give in to the pester power of children in the supermarket. Quite commonly

2-tier advertising campaigns are being used. Initially products are marketed to

children using cool character merchandising and early morning broadcasting slots.

Then manufacturers send a healthy and convenience message on the product to the

parent at the point of purchase.

Another obvious factor is inactivity. Parents are scared to let their children play in the

streets and parks and are opting to keep children inside, protected against the world.

The lure of TVs, Playstations and computers to quieten a confined child, is strong. It

appears that the parental fear of stranger childhood abduction is greater than the fear

of childhood obesity. The statistics of obesity and abduction could suggest that there

is more threat in inactivity and poor nutrition, than successful child abduction2.

2 Who should be responsible for addressing the problem?

Whoever or whatever started the problem, the most important question is now who is

going to rectify it? Should it be Parliament, Manufacturers, Retailers, Advertisers,

Character Licensors, the Parents, or maybe even the Children themselves?

Many lay the blame firmly at the feet of industry for manufacturing and marketing the

products. Yes, industry has a role in the supply chain; however, the products are

labeled, so consumer information and choice are available. Yes, perhaps businesses

should be more responsible when deciding which products to market with character

merchandising. However, many companies are now recognizing their influence and

are reviewing their lines. A clear example is the recent review by the BBC over the

products merchandised with their popular pre-school characters such as Teletubbies.

Retailers also have a strong influence in public nutrition with the majority of food

being purchased from supermarkets. Many contend therefore that supermarkets

should be accountable. But surely consumers, particularly parents and children,

cannot transfer blame this easily? Despite marketing and children pester power,

manufacturers and supermarkets cannot force families to buy multi-packs of crisps,

pizzas and processed lunchbox snacks, instead of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Purchasers make this decision because it's easier than spending 45 minutes preparing

a nutritious snack.

Also, until recently, reluctance to become a Nanny State has meant that Parliament

and the EU Commission preferred increasing labelling to more extreme actions such

as advertising restrictions or compositional requirements for children's food. This

2 http://www.crimereduction.gov.uk/violence12.htm.

approach is not working and thus the tide is changing, with MPs on the Common

Health Select Committee saying Ministers must prepare to intervene if industry

agreements on marketing and composition do not show results. The Committee

favoured government action over consumer information. It wants the Food Standards

Agency (FSA) to draw up a traffic light system of food and drink labels with red

being for high energy, amber being medium and green for low.

When private individuals cannot make the correct choice and this affects the public

interest, then perhaps the state should legislate. This is true for tobacco, alcohol and

drugs - they are restricted by age, classified according to their danger and are taxed.

A child cannot buy spirits or tobacco so should they be permitted to purchase fast

food and bags of confectionery with their pocket money?

Perhaps the state should intervene and protect children from either their own choices

or inadequate parenting? In an era when billions are being spent on mandatory GM

detection and labelling, without the problem even being one of safety, perhaps

attention should instead be turned to compositional and marketing standards for

children's food? Possibly, this is better use of Industry and the Commission's time

and money?

Alternatively, perhaps the answer lies with local authorities. Maybe ideas can be

pioneered on transport, planning and school meals that would change children's

futures? Or perhaps

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