On Wednesday morning, a faceoff between kids’ health and the food industry will reach a months-long culmination. CEOs from some of the biggest food companies in the world will show up to say they should not be held accountable—even by voluntary, science-based guidelines—for the foods they market to kids. Think they have our kids’ best interests at heart? We’re Not Buying It.
Federal health and consumer protection experts (known as the Interagency Working Group), have proposed reasonable, science-based nutrition guidelines to help provide a model for companies that market to kids. Unfortunately, the food industry and media companies are working overtime to get Congress to stop the IWG from finalizing these sensible recommendations. And right now, they’re winning. Today the FTC released testimony that showed that they are already backpedaling on their guidelines—bowing to politics rather than standing up for kids’ health. Prevention Institute has launched a petition asking President Obama to step in and uphold the guidelines, to help make it fair for parents trying to make the best choices for our kids.
The food industry doesn’t profit off of families like mine—but they hold me up as a shining example of what parents should be doing. “Parents buy products, not kids,” they proclaim, while spending two billion on advertising to kids every year. “Parents have to say no,” they say, while putting sugar cereals at eye level on store shelves and queuing up candy and chips in the grocery store aisles where my son and I wait to check out with our Brussels sprouts and broccoli (yes, he eats them).
“I’m not normal,” my son wailed last week, as I denied his ten-thousandth plea to stop for ‘fast foods’ on our way home from work and school. “I’m not normal” has been his automatic response for all of the things I don’t let him do that all of his friends do. No ‘fast foods’, no buying cookies or brownies at the weekly school fundraiser, no slurpees at the movies, no Doritos for snacks, water instead of juice and crackers instead of cookies at his after school program (his after school teachers keep a separate stash they dole out for him; the other kids get juice and cookies for every snack). He has never had a Happy Meal. I make most of his food from scratch and he packs a bag lunch every day.
Still, my son is surrounded; everywhere he goes, by unhealthy food options. From the grocery store checkout line, to billboards, movie ads and the foods he sees his friends eating, to sports team sponsorships and even promo ads at his school.
The food industry has done something insidious, powerful and almost indelible. They have created a new normal for food that permeates virtually every nook and cranny of our lives. My son doesn’t even have to watch a tv, and my friends’ children don’t have to have any money to spend on food, to be affected by the culture of unhealthy food that surrounds them. What we think of as normal, everyday food has been shaped by the ads children and parents see, by the food that is available and accessible on the grocery shelves, by the food that our government chooses to subsidize. And of course, by the billions upon billions of dollars spent by food lobbyists and powerful corporations who don’t bump up their bottom lines by making their products seem like occasional treats.
I do what they say I should. I say no, all the time. And frankly, I'm exhausted. I could use a little help. Is it too much for me to ask that food and beverage companies give me a little support for the messages I give my son, instead of trying to undermine me at every turn? Food companies that choose to follow the new voluntary guidelines will still be able to make all of the ads they want—they’ll just have to direct them towards parents, not impressionable kids.
Prevention Institute, parents, advocates, public health officials and organizations across the country are calling for President Obama to step in and protect voluntary guidelines for food marketing to children. Sign the petition and join us.