‘Avatar’ Big Mac Promotion Highlights Need for Children’s Marketing Guidelines
Interagency Working Group’s Proposed Standards Could Fight Obesity Epidemic, Doctors Say
WASHINGTON—A massive new effort to promote Big Macs to teenagers highlights the need for children’s food marketing standards proposed yesterday by officials with the Federal Trade Commission and other government agencies. Nutrition experts with the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine generally support the Interagency Working Group’s draft guidelines, which suggest restricting advertising aimed at children of foods and beverages that contain high levels of sugar, sodium, and saturated fat.
The draft standards were unveiled as McDonald’s ramped up its Avatar marketing campaign, which uses TV advertising, in-store displays, and an online video game to promote high-fat burgers to young fans of the highly anticipated science-fiction film. Customers purchasing Big Macs—which derive almost half their calories from fat—will receive access to an online Avatar game created by McDonald’s.
“The Avatar Big Mac promotion is the nutritional equivalent of throwing an anvil to a drowning man,” says Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., PCRM’s nutrition director. “America’s teenagers are losing the battle against obesity. We desperately need marketing guidelines that will give them a fighting chance at making wise food choices.”
The percentage of overweight and obese children is now at or above 30 percent in 30 states, according to a recent report from the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Obesity rates are linked to a huge increase in diabetes risk. One in three children born in 2000 will develop diabetes at some point in life, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Food and beverage companies spend $1.6 billion a year advertising to children, according a 2008 FTC report. Annual obesity-related health care spending in the United States now reaches $147 billion, double what it was about a decade ago, according to recent study in the journal Health Affairs.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.
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Susan Levin, M.S., R.D.
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