Dubious Health Claims and Toys: How the Industry Sells Junk
Kellogg’s, Kraft Foods, ConAgra Foods, Unilever, General Mills, PepsiCo and Tyson Foods all have a great understanding of nutrition—if they do say so, themselves. They have a select group of “healthy” products that they promote through the front-of-the-package Smart Choices labeling program. Under the program, healthy food for kids includes Fruit Loops, which Smart Choices Board President Eileen T. Kennedy tells us is healthier than a donut.
Do we want food companies teaching our kids about nutrition?
The FDA is making an effort to toughen the standards for advertising so that the Smart Choices program promotes truly healthful products. As usual, industry opposes this push for healthy ingredients since the majority of their products contain far too much sugar, calories, fat and additives to be included. Froot Loops, for example, have 12 grams of sugar per serving—the maximum allowed in the Smart Choices program.
But these companies don’t just rely on ambiguous health claims on the packaging to sell their products; they have various kid-friendly means to get out the word.
McDonald’s has been crafting advertising campaigns to appeal to children since they first started selling hamburgers and fries. For years, they’ve been selling food to kids using clowns, costumes and toys. They sponsor the releases of Hollywood blockbuster films, introduce kid-friendly combo meals and even build playgrounds in their restaurants—all designed to develop lifelong customers. If anyone understands the idea of planting the seeds of marketing for the next generation of consumers, it’s certainly McDonald’s, which does so through cheap toys, cheap food and a half a billion-dollar ad campaign.
Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is suing McDonald’s for using toys to sell Happy Meals, claiming it is “unfair and deceptive marketing.” CSPI has been working with members of Congress and various government agencies to develop model nutrition standards for food marketing to children. Let your representative know that junk food shouldn’t be marketed to kids.