EDITORIAL

Saying 'no' to junk food

The move to curb advertisements of junk food targeted at children will assuage health-conscious parents who might worry about the seductive power of these ads, often embedded in family oriented shows. Emotional links with toys and familiar characters are the more obvious forms of attachment formed at an impressionable age. Such connections can also extend to junk food brands that could make kids lifelong customers, according to the Berkeley Media Studies Group.

First-time parents might be initially thrilled by a pre-schooler's early recognition of ubiquitous slogans but this wears off when pestered by their children for sweet treats advertised. They might have an easier time when such food ads are banned from all TV channels and publications aimed at children, and at bus stops near primary schools.

Are health authorities being over-solicitous in restraining food choices? One in nine adults is obese - having an excess amount of body fat - and 12 per cent of schoolkids are obese. The concern is that children are following in the steps of their parents. This trend is also evident elsewhere. One-third of American adults and 17 per cent of youngsters are obese. In a recent US study, 40 per cent of parents said they took their child to a fast-food restaurant at least once a week when asked, and double that proportion went there with children aged between two and 11.

Therein lies an oral antidote to childhood obesity - the word "no". By simply taking a firmer hand and by adopting a healthy lifestyle themselves, parents can help break a vicious circle - sedentary TV and video activities leading to a junk food craving induced by ads, which in turn results in obesity and reduced levels of physical activity. One would be missing the point to blame food industry captains and advertising mavens, as the scope for commerce should not be unduly fettered. Ultimately, it is all about making the right choices for oneself and influencing the young to adopt healthy habits for life.