Big Food’s Blame Game

Corporations spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year marketing a dangerous product to America's children....

October 18, 2010 | Source: Other Words | by Leslie Samuelrich

Corporations spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year marketing a dangerous product to America’s children.

No one disputes the danger of the product. No one disputes that the marketing successfully convinces millions of kids to use the product.

Yet these same corporations deny that they’re endangering our children. Instead, they’re blaming parents. It’s mom’s fault. Or dad’s.

How could this be? If the product were a gun, or drugs, or even a poorly designed toy that could injure a child, the corporation responsible for making it and then marketing it to the most vulnerable among us would be on the hook.

Yet since the product I’m talking about is unhealthy food, corporations expect us to apply a different standard. They want us to blame the victim, or at least the people who love the victim the most.

In the past 30 years, U.S. obesity rates have tripled among children between 12 and 19 years old. A third of children today are now officially overweight or obese. Consequently, these children are more likely to suffer from diseases once limited to grownups, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Type II diabetes.

Sick children often grow up to be sick adults–and we all pay. Obesity is costing our country $147 billion per year, according to government-sponsored research. As a group of retired military leaders pointed out earlier this year, the crisis even undermines our national security: Being overweight is the top reason military recruits are rejected.

In this context, calls for limiting fast food marketing to children are modest. Such initiatives don’t call for banning fast food; they’re simply an effort to level the playing field. Each year, McDonald’s and its competitors move more than a billion unhealthy meals to kids under the age of 12, primarily on the wings of toy giveaways in its Happy Meals.