Monday, July 9, 2012

Supersized fast-food fury?

This week McDonald's was found in breach of industry standards over a website which was seen to be marketing to children. Personally I do not mind most of the marketing they do. The marketing person inside of me finds it interesting, the charity worker inside of me worries a little about those who are weak to these messages, but in the end, I truly believe that it is up to the parents to teach their kids about what they eat and why they eat it, because those lessons will be with them for life.

The SMH reported:

The Advertising Standards Bureau upheld the Cancer Council's complaint about the Happy Meal website, finding that it had breached several clauses of the voluntary code for advertising to children, including promoting unhealthy food choices by using characters and online interactive games aimed at children.

Even having worked for charities targeting this behaviour in the past, I have started to rethink why this causes so much passion from so many. I am struggling to understand how cute characters on a game, on a website are encouraging children to eat bad food. I do understand pester power. I have studied it at university and I most certainly have seen the impact of it on marketing campaigns I have worked on.  

I also have a 6 yr. old and a 3 yr. old. So far, I control what goes into my children’s mouths – to a large degree. They love having McDonald’s. They have probably had it 3 times in the last year, and their meals are chosen by me (apple bag, no chips, water instead of soft drinks). I know exactly what it does to their little bodies overnight too. My 3 year old has type 1 diabetes; I test her blood glucose every few hours during the night. On a McDonald’s night she usually needs extra insulin and her levels continue to get higher and higher overnight. McDonald’s is a treat and my kids understand this.

I would like to eat bad food every day. I love chocolate. I love ice-cream.  I know what happens if I eat too much – and it is not just about gaining weight. I don’t think as clearly, I get tired and generally my health suffers. Over the past few years I have discussed the impact of our diet with my children. Mostly, they don’t nag me for “sometimes” foods. 

So would it be easier for parents if there were no lollies and foods targeting kids? I guess so. There would be fewer arguments and maybe less children eating as many “sometimes” foods. But what happens when the kids are old enough to buy their own food? What happens when they get to make their own choices? Clearly the concern is that we have an obesity epidemic growing in Australia with unhealthy parents unable to educate their children, which is leading to overweight or unhealthy children.

This week is National Diabetes Week. This week the focus is all about type 2 diabetes and how to prevent it. Type 2 diabetes is largely preventable through diet and exercise; unlike type 1 diabetes which is an auto-immune disease (and cannot be prevented). I think we need to start teaching our children from a very young age about good food choices. I think we need to help them understand why good foods can make them feel good for longer and why “sometimes” food, whilst yummy, are only for just that – for sometimes. I believe that the challenge for us is how we get parents to understand food labels – not just fast food, but all food. We need to understand the impact of the ingredients of what we eat and what it means to our bodies. The healthy canteens campaigns for schools within Australia are a great start.

What do you think? Would it be easier to just ban junk food advertising of all kids and remove cartoon packaging and kids’ toys with purchases? What else can we do to help parents?

No comments:

Post a Comment