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Behind the Shady World of Marketing Junk Food to Children

Marketers spend billions attracting kids to junk food they hope will become a lifelong brand attachment. But the effect on kids' health can be costly.

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With the government either unwilling or unable to curb food marketing to children, parents have a number of choices. They can restrict TV and internet use by limiting the amount of a child's screen time, by designating certain shows or Web sites off-limits, or even by getting rid of their TVs altogether. Still, children will likely view marketing content at a friend's house or even at school. (Until 2008, it wasn't unheard of for children's report cards to sport the Golden Arches, offering a free Happy Meal to elementary school children with good grades. McDonald's ended the program when it received negative press attention.) Other parents set rules that the family must discuss and deconstruct each TV commercial as they watch TV, or that the answer is "No" for any product a child requests that was advertised on TV.

Parents can also support the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which does excellent work in exposing issues with advertising to children and even forcing advertisers to change. Unfortunately, despite the Obama administration's admirable work combating childhood obesity, moving beyond the failed policy of industry self-regulation of marketing to children does not seem forthcoming.

Jill Richardson is the founder of the blog La Vida Locavore and a member of the Organic Consumers Association policy advisory board. She is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It. .

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