Posts Tagged 'Business'

The 15 WORST health drinks in Britain

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Let’s Junk Junk-Food Advertising to Kids

No matter how often you’ve warned your kids that you’re not buying any junk food at the grocery store, they still badger you relentlessly. Many times, they win, because they have a smiling, laughing SpongeBob SquarePants backing them up.

There’s a virtual treasure trove of products emblazoned with SpongeBob and other characters enticing kids up and down every aisle, from boxes of Popsicles, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and Yoplait Go-Gurt — a single serving of which contains a fair portion of the total daily allowance of sugar recommended by the American Heart Association for children.

When it comes to junk food, advertisers are outgunning well-intentioned parents, who know all too well it’s tough going against the likes of SpongeBob, Dora or even LeBron James.

According to a recent report from the Federal Trade Commission, food and beverage companies spent $1.8 billion marketing directly to children and teens in 2009. That may be a 15 percent decrease from the $2.1 billion spent in 2006, but that doesn’t mean advertisers are getting softer. They’re getting savvier. Interactive game websites for kids, Internet advertising, and product placement in movies, video games and TV shows are their new pathways. Coke cups accessorize the judges’ table on American Idol, while on the “X Factor,” folks have gone with Pepsi.

Fast-food restaurants, which spent $4.2 billion on marketing in 2009, are likewise exploiting new opportunities, including banner ads on mobile websites, smartphone applications, and text messaging ads.

Campaigns aimed at kids operate on what the industry calls “pester power.” And boy, does it work. The average toddler sees nearly three fast-food advertisements every day; kids ages 6-11 view three-and-a-half ads; and teenagers, nearly five, according to a study by Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. As a result, 40 percent of children between ages two and 11 ask to go to McDonald’s at least once a week, according to the Rudd Center research. Fifteen percent of preschoolers ask daily. In the end, 84 percent of parents say they acquiesced and had taken their kids, ages two to 11, to a fast-food restaurant at least once in the past week.

It’s no small wonder that more than a third of kids and teens today are overweight or obese and are being diagnosed with adult conditions like Type 2 diabetes. Recent research also suggests there may be a link between eating too much junk and an increased risk for asthma, severe eczema and rhinitis, a condition with allergy-like symptoms — runny nose and itchy, watery eyes. The study found children and young teens who ate fast food three or more times a week were significantly more likely to have these problems. Researchers speculate that may be because fast food is high in saturated fatty acids, trans fatty acids, sodium, carbohydrates and sugar, and contains preservatives.

Marketing any product directly to young children is devious, but marketing those that contribute to a dangerous and preventable health epidemic should be banned. It makes no sense to wage programs like Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” or public-service announcements touting fruit and vegetable consumption while allowing junk-food giants to trumpet their contradictory message, armed with bigger budgets, celebrity endorsements, licensed characters and far greater exposure.

Research shows that children younger than eight years old are not cognitively and psychologically capable of understanding the intent of advertising and typically accept claims as fact.

Furthermore, ads designed to promote healthy foods among kids can lose their potency when viewed in the same sitting as commercials for junk food. We also know that eating habits developed in childhood can last a lifetime, which, of course, is why advertisers are so eager to snag costumers young.

It’s disappointing that stars like Pepsi spokes-celebrities LeBron James and the boy band One Direction are willing to sell their images to push empty calories to kids, especially since they, along with popular licensed characters, are such persuasive sales tools. In a recent study, 40 children from age four to six were given three pairs of identical foods (graham crackers, gummy fruit snacks and carrots) packaged either with or without a popular cartoon character. After tasting both items in each pair, they were asked which tasted better. Overwhelmingly, the item that featured a cartoon character on the package was selected.

The American Psychological Association and American Academy of Pediatrics recommend restricting child-directed advertising. Yet junk-food peddlers have managed to persuade lawmakers to let them regulate themselves. Can’t you just hear SpongeBob laughing?

In the late 1970s, the Federal Trade Commission thoroughly studied the issue and agreed that advertising to children younger than age six was unfair and deceptive. It proposed restrictions on TV commercials for kids. But the proposal was dropped because of political opposition and some difficulty over deciding how rules should be implemented.

A number of countries have managed to impose restrictions. Sweden and Norway don’t allow advertising targeted to children younger than 12. Greece forbids toy advertising before 10 p.m. In Denmark and Belgium, child-directed advertising is significantly restricted.

The province of Quebec in Canada banned fast-food advertising to children in television and print in 1978. As a result, fast-food sales have declined by an estimated 13 percent, and the childhood obesity rate in Quebec is significantly lower than the national average.

Increasingly, though, television and print are only part of the problem. Eighty percent of kids under age five use the Internet weekly, and 60 percent of kids three and younger watch videos online. Check out the bookmarks on your child’s computer, and you may be surprised to find interactive commercials masquerading as game sites, such as Burger King’s, McDonald’s, Trix Cereal’s or Websites also are frequently promoted on product packaging, sometimes directing kids there to find quiz answers or enter contests.

So far, only baby steps have been made. Monsters Inc. and Toy Story fruit snacks notwithstanding, Walt Disney Co. last year announced it would restrict advertisements on its various media outlets of foods that don’t meet certain nutritional requirements. The new rules start in 2015, after existing contracts expire. This follows a 2006 initiative in which the house of mouse opted to phase out promotion of junk food to kids and at its theme parks.

Kudos also go to MOM’s Organic Market, the 10-store chain in the Washington-Baltimore area that announced it was dropping all products with packaging that features licensed children’s characters, including Dora the Explorer frozen soybeans and Elmo juice boxes.

That’s a start, but we need to finish the job, banning junk-food and fast-food peddlers from targeting kids who haven’t even learned to tie their shoes. Until then, I urge parents to keep computers and televisions out of children’s rooms and in a spot where you can see what’s happening. Continue to preach the importance of healthy eating habits and, above all, hang tough in the grocery store. Don’t let SpongeBob have the last laugh.


33% of children ‘eat crisps daily’

Just over half (58%) of eight to 15-year-olds eat healthy snacks such as fruit, vegetables, seeds or rice cakes compared with 89% who choose “standard” snacks including crisps, biscuits, confectionery and cakes, the YouGov SixthSense study found.

And confectionery as a whole is more popular than fruit, with 63% of children eating it as a snack compared with 54% opting for the latter.

Almost seven in 10 children snack at least once a day, with 16% doing so twice a day or more.

Fruit is the post popular snack among British adults (51%), followed by crisps (43%), sweet or chocolate biscuits (40%), chocolate bars (36%) and other chocolate confectionery (27%).

The study found 46% of male crisp eaters say they eat them because they are hungry, while 36% of women say they eat them to satisfy cravings.

Only 14% of adults consider their children to be slightly overweight and just 1% very overweight, while 2% of eight to 15-year-olds are on a diet.

YouGov SixthSense research director James McCoy said: “Anyone concerned about childhood obesity in Britain will likely find this report alarming. While it’s encouraging that fruit rates highly as a snack choice for children, they are still eating far more crisps and confectionery products.

“With a third of eight to 15-year-olds eating crisps every single day it’s clear that more needs to be done to make healthier snack options more appealing to children.”

YouGov surveyed 2,100 adults between January 23-26 and 502 children aged eight to 15 between January 18-24.


Parents in UAE admit to caving into child’s fast food demands

ABU DHABI // More than half of parents who give their children unhealthy food regularly do so despite knowing the adverse effects and because of their offsprings’ insistence.

A survey of 999 Emirati parents found that 40 per cent often let their children consume calorie-laden foods such as chips, burgers, pizza and chocolate.

The survey, compiled for Al Aan TV’s Nabd Al Arab (Arabs’ Pulse) programme and The National by YouGov, found that 59 per cent said this was because they cave in to their children who “insist” on eating unhealthy foods.

A further 32 per cent said they gave their children unhealthy foods because they were “picky eaters”.

Other respondents said they had no time to prepare healthy meals at home and said unhealthier foods were more convenient, while some said fast food and ready-to-eat prepackaged dinners were cheaper than preparing a meal from scratch.

Of those who admitted to giving their children unhealthy food, one in 10 admitted they did so “whenever they ask for it”.

More than 50 per cent of respondents said they fed their children unhealthy food “once to twice a week”.

But experts are clear that a healthy lifestyle when a child is young is key to the prevention of weight problems and obesity later, and avoiding illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.

“Food parents choose for kids these days has become a matter of convenience rather than health,” said Rashi Chowdhary, a Dubai-based nutritionist. “It is easier for parents to order in a pizza over a nutrient rich, home-cooked meal.

“Parents are a child’s biggest role model, but since adults here are completely misinformed about food, they take no time out for any activity and eat unhealthy meals next to their kids, so having unhealthy, overweight or even obese children is bound to happen.

“Kids as young as eight have Type 2 diabetes in the UAE today.”

The answer, she said, was to “encourage your children to eat food in its most natural original form. So choose whole fruit over fruit juices, pick whole grain breads over refined white breads, whole milk over skimmed”. She added: “Start at a young age with kids, and they will grow up to be healthier adults.”

The study found Dubai parents were more than twice as likely to give their children unhealthy food as parents in Abu Dhabi or Sharjah. Of those asked, 42 per cent admitted buying fast food on a “regular basis” for their children.

Hamda Al Hameli said she regularly gave her three children fast food because of its convenience.

“I am a working woman and do not have enough time to cook when I return home,” said the 28-year-old Abu Dhabi resident. “I admit it, most of the time I pick food up.”

Mrs Al Hameli buys takeaways such as baguettes, burgers or hot-dogs for her children three or four times a week.

But Rahma Al Ketbi, a nutrition education manager at the Abu Dhabi-based Imperial College London Diabetes Centre, said parents needed to be role models for healthy eating.

The risk of adult obesity is at least twice as high for obese children than for non-obese children, she said.

“Adolescents are being diagnosed at younger and younger ages due to obesity linked to physical inactivity and unhealthy diets,” she said.

“Children are often more willing and open to learn about healthy choices than adults realise,” she said. “Just don’t force them to choose between cookies and carrots. But, if the option is between fruit and whole-grain crackers with cheese, either choice is a winner.”

McDonald’s director of nutrition insists the fast food menu is healthy

The director of nutrition for McDonald’s is insisting that the menu offered at the fast food chain is healthy.

Speaking about the launch of the new McWrap, Dr Cindy Goody said healthy eating is a top priority at the franchise

McDonald’s Corp. has been stepping up the pace of its new menu offerings as it struggles to grow sales in the challenging economy. Last year, the company ousted the head of its U.S. division after a monthly sales figure fell for the first time in nearly a decade.

Dr Goody has worked for the Golden Arches since 2008.

Her job is to evaluate the nutritional information of the items on the menu and to consult on healthier options to include.

In an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune this week, when asked point blank if food at McDonald’s was healthy, she responded with a confident ‘I do.’

‘It is possible to eat from the recommended USDA My Plate food groups when visiting McDonald’s. It’s about choice. It’s about customization. It’s about looking at the calories on the menu board.’

The hamburger chain has Dr Goody traveling the country to promote its new found commitment to nutritional food, the inspiration for its new wrap.

The new sandwich will come in three varieties – Chicken & Bacon, Sweet Chili Chicken and Chicken & Ranch.

The Oak Brook, Ill.-based chain says the McWraps use the same type of flour tortillas and chicken as its snack wraps, which were introduced in 2006.

But two of the new McWraps will come with cucumbers, which the company says will mark the first time the vegetable will be part of its core menu. The wraps range from 360 to 600 calories, depending on whether people pick grilled or deep-fried chicken.

Dr Goody highlighted past wins in the nutrition race like smaller sized fries in Happy Meals for kids, reducing calories from 230 to 100, and adding apples to the children’s meal.

For the adults healthier alternatives like yogurt parfait, salads and oatmeal have been added.

She revealed that the restaurant will be offering a new breakfast sandwich in April, the Egg White Delight, that is made with 100 per cent egg whites and has 250 calories compared to the Egg McMuffin’s 300 calories.

They are also looking to incorporate carrots into their menu for kids.

Though she is on the lookout for helping make the brand more health concious, she did concede that the company must first and foremost respond to consumer demand.

‘Other parts of the world have transitioned or offered a whole grain Big Mac bun for their customers because that’s what their customers were asking for. [U.S] customers are not asking for their Big Mac to be on a whole grain bun,’ she said.

Health experts: Most fast food kid-friendly meals loaded with fat, salt

WASHINGTON – American families are eating more and more of their meals at chain restaurants. And it turns out, those meals may be playing a big role in the child obesity epidemic.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest — a non-profit consumer group — says almost all the kid meals offered by the big chains have far too much salt and fat. They also have far more calories than any child needs to consume in one sitting.

Working with a research team at the University of North Carolina, Asheville, CSPI looked at nearly 3,500 kid combos at 34 chains, using nutritional data provided by the restaurants.

Ninety-seven percent of the meals did not meet the nutrition standards set by a panel of nutrition and health experts, based in large part on recommendation put forward by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“One out of every three American children is either overweight or obese, but it is as if much of the restaurant industry didn’t get the memo,” says CSPI nutrition policy director Margo Wootan.

She says many of them are still serving up fried chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, pizza and hamburgers with a side order of fries, all accompanied by sugary sodas.

This is the second such survey conducted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. In 2008, 99 percent of the kids meals flunked the test.

Ameena Batada, who is with the Department of Health and Wellness at the University of North Carolina, Asheville, calls the level of improvement “disappointing.” The two studies — taken side-by-side — show there has been some progress, she says, but much more must be done.

Noah “Bingo” Gray, 13, of New Windsor, Md., knows the problem firsthand. He was one of the kids featured in the TV show “The Biggest Loser” during its last season.

Before he joined the show, he would eat out about five times a week, mostly at fast food restaurants.

“We would order a burger, large drinks, large fries,” Gray says adding, “Now it just seems insane because it is just way too many calories.”

Now a healthy, trim teen with a winning smile, he says, “You’ve got to be able to make good choices when you go out.”

Unfortunately, says CSPI’s Wooton, tracking down healthy meals for kids is like “finding a needle in a haystack.”

But there is one chain that did well in the nutritional survey of kids meals.

Subway’s Fresh Fit for Kids combos met 100 percent of the quality standards set by the panel of experts.

Fizzy soft drink sales drop for 8th straight year

Americans’ consumption of fizzy soft drinks, on the decline since 2005, fell last year to its lowest level since 1996. If it weren’t for increasingly popular energy drinks like Monster and Red Bull, the decline would have been worse.

The declines come amid heavy attention on soda’s role in obesity and related health problems. Most prominently, the city of New York tried to cap the sizes of high-calorie drinks, though that effort was struck down by a judge earlier this month.

The figures come from Beverage Digest, an industry newsletter that publishes a similar report every March.

The trade journal also found that the pace of decline for carbonated beverages has sped up. Sales volume fell 1.2 per cent last year, compared with a 1 per cent drop in 2011 and a 0.5 per cent drop in 2010. Without energy drinks, volume would have fallen 1.7 per cent.

A three per cent soda price hike helped revenue rise 1.8 per cent to $77.1 billion.

Despite the decline, carbonated soft drinks still make up the biggest category of nonalcoholic beverages.

Total drink sales rose 1 per cent to 15.4 billion cases. Fizzy soft drink sales amounted to 9.2 billion of those cases. Consumers are increasingly drinking more bottled water, tea and energy drinks.

The fastest-growing brands by volume were Monster, up 19.1 per cent; Red Bull, up 17 per cent; Dasani, up 9.1 per cent; Rock-star, up eight per cent; Fanta, up seven per cent; and Arizona, up 6.2 per cent.

The changes in behaviour haven’t changed who the dominant drink makers are, however.

The Coca-Cola Co., which owns Dasani and Powerade, saw its share of the beverage market steady at 34 per cent, while the share of PepsiCo Inc. slid to 26.3.