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    "I want that!" TV advertising has a bad influence on young eating habits

    Every day, children are served up a barrage of television commercials telling them what to eat. According to J. Michael McGinnis, senior scholar at the Institute of Medicine (IOM), that's a problem: "Current food and beverage marketing practices put kids' long-term health at risk." McGinnis's findings appear in a report, Food Marketing to Children and Youth: Threat or Opportunity?, issued recently by the IOM's committee on food marketing and the diets of children and youth.

    The IOM committee, chaired by McGinnis, found strong evidence that advertising of foods and beverages on TV directly influences what children choose to eat-and what they often choose is high in calories and low in nutrients. Advertisers aren't likely to change their marketing strategies soon; the food and beverage market aimed at children and adolescents is a $200-billion-a-year industry.

    TV advertising is not the only medium contributing to this problem. The Web, video and computer games, and strategic product placement, such as in schools and within TV programs and movies, also target youth for marketing of products. And the top four items that children ages 8 to 12 years say that they can buy without their parents' permission are—no surprise—high-calorie, low-nutrient foods and beverages.

    Among the committee's proposed fixes is that the government and schools develop and apply nutritional standards for all foods and beverages (including those sold in school stores and vending machines and for fundraising) sold by schools receiving federal funding for reimbursable meals.

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