85 percent children influenced by advertisements, to consume unhealthy food

Jaipur, March 13, 2009

85 percent children accept that they are influenced by advertisements to consume unhealthy food products and 35 percent parents consider advertisement as the main culprit for increasing demand of junk food among children. However, both school administration and parents are deeply responsible for feeding the young generation junk food. 63 percent of the schools, where canteen exists, junk food is sold without any restriction and 86 percent parents prefer packed food items as gift on festivals/occasions.

These findings emerged out of a sample survey titled ‘The Junk Food Trap’ carried out by CUTS Centre for Consumer Action, Research & Training (CUTS CART), a Jaipur based consumer advocacy group, as a part of a global strategy to advocate against marketing of unhealthy foods on the eve of the World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD), 2009. Every year March 15 is observed as World Consumer Rights Day and this year’s theme is ‘Stopping the Marketing of unhealthy food to children’. This survey was part of an international campaign for ‘International Code on Marketing of food and non-Alcoholic beverages to children’, which protects present and future generations from the damage to health from consumption of energy dense and nutrient poor food.

This study was conducted in 30 schools across Jaipur city, including both government and private schools, covering there segments students, parents and school authorities. The students covered in the sample had equal ratio of boys and girls from the classes 6-8 in the age group 11-13.

The food producing companies are using various strategies like distribution of free samples, organizing competitions, sponsoring events and distributing prizes for making children fall in the junk food trap. These companies have approached 60 percent of the schools surveyed; during the present academic session and 46 percent schools encourage such activities. In response to a question asked to school authorities to indicate the reasons for heavy consumption of market food, advertisement was found most affecting among various reasons. 58 percent people accepted that they buy these products due to convenience and easy availability.

96 percent of school authorities and 94 percent parents blame marketing of unhealthy food to children as one of the reasons for serious health issues in the present generation. There is the urgent need for proper guidelines with regard to stopping marketing of unhealthy food to children, including sale of food in school canteens, providing space for companies in the form of sponsoring any event and distributing free packets. There should also be the restriction as well as its enforcement on advertisements of unhealthy foods during the prime hours of television, as the survey shows, 85 percent children started consuming particular food products after being influenced by the advertisement.

World Health Organisation (WHO) considers obesity to be one of the top 10 causes of preventable death worldwide. Over 22 million children under the age of five are overweight as are 155 million school-age children, worldwide

For more information, please contact:
George Cheriyan, Director & Head, CUTS CART; Mobile: 98292 85930
Khushbu Parnami, Health Educator, CUTS CART; Mobile: 99283 67692