Might Ronald and the Keebler Elves befall Joe Camel’s fate?

Last Friday, in the New York Times, there was an article entitled, U.S. Seeks New Limits on Food Ads for Children. The article discussed the proposed new guidelines by the federal government to regulate food advertising directed toward children. Toucan Sam, Ronald McDonald, and Cap’n Crunch are just a few of the slew of adorable characters food companies use to help market their products to children. The comparison has been made, and I whole-heartedly agree with this claim, that the cartoon characters associated with children’s food products act much like the extinct Joe Camel, of cigarette industry fame, to persuade our young into purchasing their products. We all know children enjoy cartoons and, thus, gravitate toward products which they associate with those characters. Don’t believe me? Just watch my 5-year-old morph into a helpless consumer anytime he sees Bumblebee (a Transformer character) slapped onto a product.

Federal regulators, in response to an epidemic of childhood obesity, are asking food makers to produce healthier versions of their current products, or stop advertising them to children. The new guidelines, released by the FTC (the Federal Trade Commission), would include television and print ads, as well as digital media. And while they’re strictly voluntary, companies who do choose to take part would have 10 years to align their product standards to fit the guidelines, (hey, 10 years seems like too long to me, but I’ll take what I can get!) which include that: the food products need to include “healthy” ingredients, such as whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, or skim milk; and can’t include unhealthy levels of sugar, salt, saturated fat, or trans fat. Here’s some food for thought. A can of Chef Boyardee beef ravioli contains 1500 milligrams of sodium. The new guidelines would force those levels down to 210 milligrams per serving, or 420 milligrams for the entire can of ravioli. Yikes, yikes, and more yikes! It’s sad to think that some parents may have no clue what they’re serving their children.

I honestly don’t have a problem with companies using these characters to their advantage. Hey, I probably would too if I was selling something, simply to ensure a greater profit. What I do highly object to is that the companies using these cartoon spokespeople are almost always selling terribly unhealthy products. And who’s consuming these products? Our kids. However, it’s we, as parents, who are ultimately responsible for promoting the sale of these products. If we don’t educate our children that some products are better than others, and that although there’s a cuddly character selling the product, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for our bodies, then who will? It’s the parents who are buying these products, not the children. My advice:

1. Don’t let your young children watch television channels with commercials. In this day and age, there are numerous commercial-free channels with children’s programming 24-hours a day.

2. Never buy a food product that’s advertised on television.  I’ve never seen a good commercial for roasted beets or celery sticks with peanut butter. Frozen pizza rolls and toaster strudel is usually the norm, is it not?

If you’d like to read the NYT article in its entirety, you may do so here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/29/business/29label.html?scp=1&sq=us%20seeks%20new%20limits%20on%20food%20ads&st=cse 

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