Food Mythbusters

Dietary desire or superb marketing?

Published on September 26, 2013by Joshua Brooks

“Parents say they like the convenience of the kids’ meal feedbags,” jokes a video from satirical news source The Onion, envisioning a world where fast food chains utilize a hands-free feed bag to deliver food to its customers in the most direct way possible.

Although it’s fiction, The Onions comical approach shines light on a real problem that the Food Mythbusters, led by Anne Lappé, author and educator on food systems and sustainability, take on in their latest video “The Marketing and Advertising Myth.”

As a business, it is within the interests of fast food and junk food companies to get highly processed food to us in the easiest way possible. What this entails, says Anne Lappé, is the use of flashy packaging and keen food engineering to capitalize on the innate desire to stock up on fat and sugar—particularly in children.

The results of tactics such as flashy advertising and foods high in fat and sugar have become a larger problem than a few unhealthy kids’ meals. A 2003 study found that 42% of a representative sample of 6,413 children ate fast food. As Anne Lappé says in the video, a 2004 study in the journal Pediatrics reported that about a third of children between ages 4 and 19 years consumed fast food every day, according to a nationally representative household survey.

The study suggests that those eating fast food, when compared to those who did not, had a myriad of exposures that put them at a higher risk for obesity: consumption of more total energy, more energy per gram of food, more total fat, more total carbohydrates, more added sugars, more sugar-sweetened beverages, less fiber, less milk and fewer fruits and non-starchy vegetables. The increased exposure to fast foods may contribute to the rise in dietary-related illnesses among children, like heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma, obesity, type II diabetes and cancer.

Of course, the video strums the heartstrings, discussing the ways in which fast food and junk food companies manipulate the psychology of children to eat these foods. But, the risks are real. Even more so, the risks to low income communities, where food deserts lead to a lack of worthwhile options other than fast food, are amplified.

The Food Mythbusters make the case not against fast food and junk food, but rather the manipulation these industries have pursued to convince children to eat unhealthy foods through excessive advertising, use of cartoon characters and school infiltration. Through their video, the Food Mythbusters effectively inform and call parents to push back on an industry that continues to undermine the dietary health of our youth.

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Edited by Dana March