Marketing of soda, candy, snacks & fast foods drowns out healthful messages
By now, there is hardly an American who has not heard the U.S. Surgeon General’s oft-repeated warning that America is in the midst of an obesity epidemic. By definition, an epidemic is a rapidly spreading disease that calls for a concerted public health response. As of 2002, 31.1 percent of adults age 20-74 in the United States were obese and another 34.1 percent were overweight1—a total of 65.2 percent, or nearly two-thirds, of adults either obese or overweight.2 This represents a startlingly rapid increase in obesity rates, doubling over the past thirty years.3 The cost of the obesity and overweight epidemic to the healthcare system, including to government coffers, is equally startling: $78.5 billion for the nation annually4 and $8.4 billion for California alone.
In this paper, Consumers Union uses recently released data to highlight one of the key factors contributing to this public health crisis: the unending barrage of food, beverage, and fast food advertising in the United States. The $11.26 billion spent on advertising by the food, beverage, and restaurant industries in 20046 dwarfed the mere $9.55 million spent on communications for the federal and California “5 A Day” programs to encourage eating 5 or more servings of fruit and vegetables each day.7 Industry expenditures for food, beverage and fast food advertising, thus, are 1,178 times greater than the budgets for the California and federal 5 A Day campaigns. In this context, it is no wonder that healthful dietary messages from government, parents and others are barely audible.
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