More Fast Food Excess Coming

Rolling into 2011, fast-food joints across the country are set to deploy a potent new arsenal of greasy goodness for Americans who have grown numb to mere burgers. Think spicier, cheesier, gooier. The new items flout principles of healthful eating and instead celebrate a spirit of wanton gluttony. So much for those New Year resolutions.

Find out just what Dunkin Donuts, Burger King, Papa Johns and Taco Bell are up to in a LA Times article.

PepsiCo is betting that consumers want to “snackify” drinks.  I guess there’s one born every minute, but paying a premium for a new pureed fruit product instead of just eating a piece of fruit escapes me. Not only will the 80 calorie

fruit puree come in colorful pouches, but a four pack will go for $2.49 to $3.49.  So how many organic apples can you buy for $3.50? It’s gotta be enough at one a day to keep the doctor away for a week and without the solid waste and carbon footprint.

Pepsico Chairman and Chief Executive Indra Nooyi is staking her reputation on building out the company’s “good-for-you” portfolio, uniting the Tropicana, Quaker and Gatorade units under one umbrella and expanding their product lines. Ms. Nooyi has said she wants to build the nutrition business to $30 billion from $10 billion by 2020 according to the Wall Street Journal.

I’m wondering how optimistic those projections are going to look once consumers wake up to the genetically modified ingredients in some of those “snackified” foods. If early indications from readers of our CSI Health Crimes: GMOs special report is any indication, once the truth is known, the uproar and anger may be just what we need to avoid Wally World after all.  Maybe then those cheap introductory prices will quickly give way in the face of rising commodity prices – dairy prices are up 27%, grain is up 33%, coffee 32%, and fruits 62%.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and predict that consumers will realize sooner than later that all the ‘processing’ they need for their food starts with eating it fresh.

TV Bombards Children With Commercials For High-Fat And High-Sugar Foods

Children’s networks exposed young viewers to 76% more food commercials per hour than other networks

St. Louis, MO, November 4, 2009 – Childhood obesity in the United States is reaching epidemic proportions. With more than one fourth of advertising on daytime and prime time television devoted to foods and beverages and continuing questions about the role television plays in obesity, a study in the November/December issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior examines how food advertising aimed at children might be a large contributor to the problem.

Researchers at the University of California-Davis examined the types of food advertisements seen by children watching English and Spanish language American television programs on Saturday mornings and weekday afternoons, prime time viewing times for children.

Recordings were made of programs on twelve networks including highly rated children’s cable channels Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and Kids’ WB, networks that appeal to older youths (MTV, BET), mainstream English-language channels ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and UPN, and Univision and Telemundo, the two highest rated Spanish language channels.

Out of 5,724 commercials recorded, 1,162 were food-related, with 91.2% of food promotions in English, and 8.7% in Spanish.

Only 1 commercial was bilingual.

Overall, nearly 1 in 5 advertisements was for a food or nutrition-related product, with 5.2 food advertisements presented every hour. Fast-food restaurants, sugary food, chips/crackers, and sugar-added beverages collectively accounted for more than 70% of food commercials; 34% were for ‘‘food on the run,’’ fast-food restaurants and convenience food.

Children’s networks had the highest percentage of food-related commercials. Food advertisements were predominately for sugary cereals and sweets, high fat food, convenience or fast-food restaurant food, and chips/crackers. When compared to television for a general audience, children’s networks in this study exposed young viewers to 76% more food commercials per hour than did the other networks, with the Saturday morning 7-10 AM time slot being more saturated with food commercials. Approximately 7.7 food commercials per hour appeared in programming on the children’s networks, which is approximately 1 food commercial every 8 minutes.

As children move into adolescence and begin to watch more youth programming, such as the music video programming offered by BET and MTV, they continue to be exposed to advertisements for food in less-healthful categories. Eighty percent of MTV food commercials were for fast food restaurants, sugar-added beverages, and sweets.

A Healthy Snack Resource Guide

This is the first study of food advertising in Spanish-language American programming. Although the likelihood of an advertisement being for a food product did not differ between English- and Spanish- language networks, commercials on Spanish-language programming were more likely to be for alcohol and fast-food restaurants, which together account for a majority of the food commercials on these networks. These messages are being presented at a time when Hispanics in America are becoming increasingly obese.

In contrast, fruits, vegetables, and juices were advertised in only 1.7% of the commercials. Only one nutrition-related public service announcement was found for every 63 food ads.

Writing in the article, the authors state, “Study after study has documented the adverse health effects of food advertising targeting children and adolescents. Health educators need to develop and evaluate comprehensive nutrition programs that augment nutritional education with media use reduction strategies to lessen exposure to ads. School- and family-based programs that have attempted to reduce children’s media use have shown promise.

Reduced media use is insufficient by itself, for food advertising has increased in other types of media children use, such as the Internet. Thus efforts should also be made to introduce media literacy training into nutrition programs. Evaluations of nutrition-focused media literacy interventions have been rare. Such literacy training can help children and adolescents understand both the economic motivations behind food advertising and the strategies used by industry to increase desire for their products. Greater awareness of the potential influence of industry may immunize young people from food advertising’s deleterious effects.”

The article is “Frequency and Types of Foods Advertised on Saturday Morning and Weekday Afternoon English- and Spanish-Language American Television Programs” by Robert A. Bell, PhD; Diana Cassady, DrPH; Jennifer Culp, MPH, RD; and Rina Alcalay, PhD. It appears in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Volume 41, Issue 6, (November/December 2009) published by Elsevier.

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