A Cry for Help from America’s Youth: What Are Our Children Eating?
Why Are We Feeding It to Them?
And How Can We Solve This?
If immediate action is not taken childhood obesity will continue to increase and this current generation of young people could “become the first in American history to live shorter lives than their parents.”1 The current American diet lacks nutritional value and consumers are constantly misled into purchasing these unhealthy foods due to heavy marketing and promoting.2 By targeting children through their advertising, the food industry shoves highly processed and unhealthy foods down our children’s throats and thus encourages a high fat, sugary, and unnatural diet.3 Federal agencies possess the authority but lack the will to regulate the food industry’s unfair and deceptive practices.4
This Note will provide a background of the current children’s obesity epidemic and explain the lack of nutritional value in the type of foods our children are eating. Then this article will focus on why children are eating these foods, spotlighting the misleading claims made on food packages and labels.5 Finally this Note will address various instruments that can be utilized in order to force the food industry to behave. Concluding, the note will prove that child consumers need more protection than ever and that their lives are in jeopardy.
A child obesity epidemic sweeps our nation. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) – says obesity is a serious health concern for children and adolescents; surveys show that the obesity numbers have tripled since 1980.6 Over 1/3 of America’s children have a body mass index (“BMI”) in the overweight to obese percentile.7
Obesity victimizes our kids by making them suffer through the destruction of their physical condition leading to serious health problems in the future.8 These children are now at greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, type II diabetes, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.9 They are more likely to become obese adults, therefore, more prone to the associated adult health problems, including heart disease, type II diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.10 Children are our future, they need our protection and right now they are crying out for our help.
Currently the food, beverage, and restaurant industries take center stage in the American marketplace, with sales equaling $900 billion. With sales at $900 billion, it is no surprise that the food and beverage industry spends a lot on advertising; advertising to children alone equals $11 billion, of which $5 billion is spent on television.11 The American economy depends on the food industry; it contributes about 20 percent of the U.S. Gross National Product.12 An Institute of Medicine report found that “current food and beverage marketing practices puts children’s long-term health at risk. If America’s children and youth are to develop eating habits that help them avoid early onset of diet-related chronic diseases, they have to reduce their intake of high-calorie, low-nutrient snacks, fast foods, and sweetened drinks, which make up a high proportion of the products marketed to them.”13