Tell me if these statistics sound familiar: One-third of the children are overweight; the whole population is battling Type 2 diabetes; taxes imposed on sugary drinks and snacks.
You’re thinking, “Gawd, not another article blathering on about the U.S. obesity problem!” Think again. The statistics cited above are from a Wall Street Journal article written by Amy Guthrie about our sister country to the south.
I suppose it’s no surprise that the country that gave us tacos, burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, tortillas, chimichangas, and refried beans has an obesity problem. But at least they’re doing something about it.
According to Ms. Guthrie’s article, companies are no longer able to promote products like candy, soda, chips, and chocolate on afternoon and weekend television in Mexico when viewers are likely to be under age 12. In 2015, you can add sugary cereals, yogurt, cakes, and cookies to that list.
And what happens to a network that thumbs its nose at the establishment and runs, say, an ad for Zucaritas (Mexico’s Frosted Flakes) during a kids show? The fine is $75,000 per commercial. You need to sell mucho boxes of Zucaritas to make up for that.
By comparison, you might wonder, how is Nickelodeon doing with advertising of unhealthy foods on its twenty-four daily hours of children’s programming in this country? According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer advocacy organization that studies stuff like this, not so great.
A visit to the CSPI website, which features a picture of SpongeBob holding open a creepy trench coat revealing hidden pockets for french fries, soda, and cereal, and you’ll find that 69% of food ads on Nickelodeon are for junk foods. To quote CSPI director Margo G. Wootan, “Nickelodeon is clearly doing far more harm than good when it comes to the health of America’s young people.”
You could make the argument that one junk food ad is one too many, but CSPI’s own data indicates things are at least going in the right direction. The 69% junk food figure from a 2012 study is down from 88% in 2005 and 79% in 2008. The overall number of unhealthy food ads in the sample went from 148 in 2005 to 61 in 2012. In fact, only 10% of all ads on Nickelodeon are for food of any kind, healthy or unhealthy.
Perhaps the Center for Science in the Public Interest could lighten up a little on Nickelodeon. They can advocate for people to write their Congressman or the Nickelodeon CEO, but they probably don’t need to depict a WANTED poster of Dora the Explorer (“Last seen hawking junk food and obesity to kids”).
Someday the world will follow Mexico’s lead and we’ll get advertising for unhealthy foods completely off of children’s television. And we’ll put it right where it belongs. On the evening news, sandwiched between ads for Cialis and adult diapers.