A Prime-Time Push for ‘Responsible Eating’

Articles
June 22, 2010

A Prime-Time Push for ‘Responsible Eating’

There’s some truth in stereotypes. Take couch potatoes – especially the ones that actually pay attention to food commercials and do what they suggest.

There’s some truth in stereotypes. Take couch potatoes – especially the ones that actually pay attention to food commercials and do what they suggest.

Taking an extreme example, new research shows people would eat 20 times the recommended daily allowance of fat and 25 times the sugar threshold if they ate 2,000 calories a day of foods advertised during prime-time and on Saturday mornings over the four leading broadcast networks.

At the same time, people would ingest less than half the fiber, dairy, fruits and vegetables they need, notes a New York Times account of a study published in the June 2010 issue of The Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Says Michael Mink, assistant professor of health sciences at Armstrong Atlantic State University, Savannah, GA, who is lead author: “Just one advertised food item by itself will provide, on average, three times your daily recommended servings of sugar and two-and-a-half times your daily recommended servings of fat.”

The point is clear: on TV, food is often fun and tasty with no consequences. For undisciplined viewers, this is dangerous marketing – though the account doesn’t say if this study covers foods bought at retail only or at restaurants such as fast-feeders as well. 

Fortunately, the JADA study doesn’t represent the way America decides which foods to buy. The National Grocers Association/SupermarketGuru.com 2010 Consumer Panel Survey Report released earlier this year showed that 82% of consumers flock to social networking areas of the Internet to gather or exchange information about foods, including new products, nutrition and recipes. Some 55% go beyond Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to learn; of this majority group, 52% are between the ages of 50 and 64.

Given our nation’s massive obesity challenge, The Lempert Report calls on consumer-packaged goods companies to take a more responsible approach to its food messages and its food product development. We recognize the industry is reducing sodium and improving foods in other ways, but there’s still a long way to go. This study points out one more critical area where food makers and food purveyors are coming up short – the lack of an open dialogue about responsible eating.