Protecting Children from Harmful Food Marketing

The obesity epidemic cannot be reversed without substantial improvements in the food marketing environment that surrounds children.

Food marketing targeted to children almost exclusively promotes calorie-dense, nutrient-poor foods and takes advantage of children’s vulnerability to persuasive messages. Increasing scientific evidence reveals potentially profound effects of food marketing on children’s lifelong eating behaviors and health. Much of this marketing occurs in nationwide media, (e,g., television, the Internet), but companies also directly target children in their own communities through the use of billboards and through local environments such as stores, restaurants, and schools. Given the harmful effect of this marketing environment on children’s health and the industry’s reluctance to make necessary changes to its food marketing practices, government at all levels has an obligation to act.

This article focuses on policy options for municipalities that are seeking ways to limit harmful food marketing at the community level.

This article highlights ideas generated and conclusions reached at the Symposium on Ethical Issues in Interventions for Childhood Obesity, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Data for Solutions, Inc.